The Chicago Blackhawks have an unexpected surprise happening in training camp. Brandon Saad, a second round pick in the 2011 Draft, has a lot of fans wondering if he’s ready for the NHL.
In Friday night’s win over the Washington Capitals, Saad made his United Center debut and looked fantastic, skating with Viktor Stalberg and Jonathan Toews. As you can see in the video, he had a pretty assist in traffic to Stalberg and the game-winning goal. He was named the first star of the game.
Before Friday’s game, the Hawks reassigned forwards Brandon Bollig, Chris DiDomenico, Byron Froese, David Gilbert, Andrew Shaw, David Toews and Paul Zanette, and defensemen Simon Danis-Pepin, Shawn Lalonde, Ryan Stanton and Ben Youds to Rockford, cutting the roster to 41 players.
Yet Saad, who is expected to be sent back to the Saginaw Spirit, his junior club, remained in Chicago. While Saad was being named the first star at the UC, Saginaw was playing (and losing) their first game of their season.
Saad was the 43rd overall selection – and fourth by the Blackhawks – in the 2011 NHL Draft. Listed at 6’2 and over 210 pounds, it has appeared in the limited preseason action he’s seen that Saad has the size and physical ability to skate with NHL players.
However, at the rookie tournament in Oshawa, new Rockford coach Ted Dent told the media that, though Saad was already impressing the organization and scouts, the team’s intentions were to send Saad back to Saginaw. In fact, Saad is still listed on Saginaw’s roster.
It will be interesting to see if Saad has done enough this preseason to merit an entry-level contract with the Blackhawks. He certainly has fans on Twitter on fire; most spent Friday night stating his case for the NHL roster. Odds are that the organization will stay with their original plan and give Saad another year to mature in the OHL. After all, if the Blackahwks don’t sign Saad now, they control his rights for another full season.
With other talented prospects still learning in Rockford, including last year’s uber-fan-favorite Jeremy Morin, controlling Saad’s rights for an extra year sounds like the appropriate long-term approach.
But he isn’t making it easy for the Hawks to send him back to Saginaw. In every way, Saad appears to not only be a steal from this summer’s draft, but a future top-six forward at the United Center.