Chicago Blackhawks: Marko Dano, The Next Brandon Saad?

By Tim Lively

There’s no denying Brandon Saad’s departure left a void on our beloved Chicago Blackhawks’ roster, and more importantly in the heart of ’Hawks fans. Saad’s tenure with the ’Hawks may have been brief, but it was filled with paramount success, and every Chicago denizen was looking forward to watching Saad’s unprecedented potential come to life with the Blackhawks.

Alas, it was not meant to be for Saad and the ’Hawks, so the question now is, who will fill Saad’s skates? Well, the Blackhawks may have already found the answer.

Amongst the plethora of players brought to Chi-Town from the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Saad trade, all of whom thus far are basically “no names” to most ’Hawks fans (save perhaps Jeremy Morin), Marko Dano may be just the type of under-the-radar candidate to fill the Saad slot. While Artem Anisimov may have been the focal point of the Saad transaction, Dano looks primed more than any of the other newly added Blackhawks to make the biggest splash. Here’s why.

For starters, talent-wise, Dano is certainly cut from the same cloth as Saad. The 20-year-old Dano is not only similar in size and age to Saad at about 6-foot, 200 lbs., but like Saad, Dano during his brief exposure to the NHL has been also been described as a skilled two-way forward with the grit and speed to generate strong offensive drives while simultaneously being defensively smart and responsible. Not to mention, statistically speaking, Dano is right where Saad was at this point in his career (Dano had 21 points in 35 games last season).

While nothing is even close to guaranteed at this point, there’s no denying that these attributes alone put Dano in an ideal position to become a fixture on the Blackhawks roster given coach Joel Quenneville’s well-known penchant for defensively effective forwards.

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Still, even if Dano is able to crack the ’Hawks roster next season, given how intense the competition will be among the Blackhawks forwards next season for playing time, he’ll be hard pressed to earn his keep. Unlike the other ’Hawks hopefuls, however, Dano may have an ace in the hole.

As we all know, while with the Blackhawks, Saad was often compared to Marian Hossa, earning the monikers “Mini Hoss” and “Hossa’s Heir” because of his comparable two-way playing talent. As we all also know, Saad’s gameplay reached new levels when he was placed on the same line as Hossa midseason.

Whether Hossa was actively mentoring Saad and/or Saad was consciously seeking Hossa’s guidance we may never know, but there’s no denying Hossa’s influence helped Saad thrive. This is where a key difference between Dano and Saad could prove to be the former’s biggest advantage.

Unlike Saad, Dano has professed that Hossa is a boyhood hero of his, and he’s tried to emulate Hossa’s style of play his entire career. Needless to say, Dano’s dream has come true being granted not only the opportunity to play with Hoss, but also actively learn from him first-hand. Add into this the fact that, like Hossa, Dano is a native of Slovakia, which gives him the perfect common ground upon which to bond with Hoss. Furthermore, given he’s already hoisted the Stanley Cup three times at the age of 36, Hossa may very well find himself with a new form of motivation should he take Dano under his wing.

Now all the aforementioned is purely hypothetical at this point, and again, nothing is guaranteed. Yet, it’s hard to deny that a lot of the ingredients, plus a few others that helped make Saad the player he is today, are present in Dano. Only time will tell. Here’s hoping …


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