Brandon Saad: A Budding Star, 82 Games In

Wednesday night’s victory was the 82nd game of Brandon Saad’s career, equaling a full, normal regular season. What have we seen from the young forward?

saad

Through 82 contests, Saad has scored 21 goals and added 30 assists. He has also been credited with 65 hits, 23 blocked shots and 55 takeaways, has earend 22 penalty minutes, and is plus-34.

Plus-34!

Saad was the 43rd overall selection at the 2011 NHL Draft, but has been one of the most productive players from that class to date.

Only five players from the 2011 Draft have played more than 82 games to date:

  • Sean Couturier (8th overall – 155 games),
  • Gabriel Landeskog (2nd overall – 147 games),
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (1st overall – 133 games),
  • Adam Larsson (4th overall – 122 games)
  • Andrew Shaw (139th overall – 117 games)

And only four have more than Saad’s 51 points to date: Nugent-Hopkins (100), Landeskog (91), Shaw (58) and Couturier (57). Of those four, only Landeskog – the top overall pick – has produced at a better rate (0.75 points per game) than Saad (0.62).

Coach Joel Quenneville has used Saad on all four lines and in almost every situation, including both the power play and penalty kill. Whether he’s on a line with Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews, which was the case for most of last year’s regular season, or with Andrew Shaw and Jeremy Morin recently, he continues to produce.

What’s more, Saad’s becoming a more complete player. He already has more takeaways (29) this year than he did last season (26), and he is on pace to double his hits and blocked shots totals as well.

Saad is certainly on the radar for USA Hockey as they put together their roster for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Based on his work in Chicago through 82 regular season games, the Blackhawks may have stolen the gem of the 2011 Draft after 42 other players were called.

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26 Responses to Brandon Saad: A Budding Star, 82 Games In

  1. Mike says:

    I have always thought that 2d-5th round picks are most important for one simple reason. They are hockey players! Their attitudes are better. They play below the limelight. They were probably drafted as much for their love of the game as for their talents. They play as if they have nothing to lose. They become the character of the team because no team has 22 first rounders. They do not need anyone’s “protection” and they are fearless.

    Often times a 3d or 4th rounder has as much chance of making the NHL as the 26th pick in the draft. And, playing under the radar seems to give them an edge. Shaw and Kruger also fit that mold. Great write up. Thanks

  2. Peter says:

    Mike, I agree that Saad is one heck of a hockey player, but I remember him slipping. I think there was maybe a character issue or worry about him. Well, I have not heard of any such issues like him and he really seems one of those few players who are better than good, possibly even elite, at wanting to play the game of hockey…not just one facet over the other. In many ways he is a young Hossa and we are lucky to have him on the Blackhawks.

  3. jay says:

    I think he was a steal but I would never say 2nd – whatever round are more important then first. if you screw up on a first round your franchise could pay for it for years. but if you nail your first round picks you have, well the hawks. to think the Hawks would be anything without those two first round picks of Kane and toews is crazy

  4. Mike says:

    Of course, your first pick is your priority and I did not mean to imply otherwise. But lets face it, Toews and Kane were elite before they were drafted and were the number 1 and number 3 picks. When is the next time the Hawks will qualify for a top 5 pick…….a long long time I hope. Hockey is the commensurate team sport. You will only go as far as your depth takes you.

  5. BigsmokeJ says:

    Boy Bowman and his staff made some good picks in that 2011 draft.

  6. JS says:

    In my opinion, first round picks are drafted for ceiling. After that you draft for floor. Bowman has done an outstanding job drafting for floor.

  7. Mike says:

    Jay, you have look at all the picks. Tab has all the Blackhawks picks above. Since Kane was the 1st pick in 2007….
    2008: Kyle Beach (11)…. Ben Smith (169)
    2009: D Olsen (28)….Pirri (59)…Kruger (149)
    2010: K Hayes (24)…..Nordstrom (90)
    2011: M McNiell (18)….Clendening (36)…..Saad (43)…..Shaw (139)….A Broadhurst (199)
    2012: TT (18)….G Ross (139)….Hinostroza (169)

    As you can see our #1 picks, with the exception of TT are NOT our top players or prospects. So what is the argument?

  8. Rufus T. Firefly says:

    Stan Bowman and his scouting and development team have done a magnificent job. Keen eye for drafting / finding raw talent, and equally important, key role player types.

    The next on that list is Joakim Nordstrom. He is a diamond in the rough. The kid can skate and skate with speed. He also has frontline stick handling potential. Love his potential to become a major defensively oriented forward and PK specialist with some more seasoning in the North America hockey game.

    Phil Danault came from that 2011 draft class too. Not a big fan of McNeil yet, but Danault is deeply impressive. Some people want to fixate on his lack of scoring so far. But this kid has the makings of becoming a rock solid center in the NHL. Great skater, great two way focus. Very underrated right now. Stop looking at his goals total and watch him play a couple games in a row. Lots of gifts.

  9. wall says:

    Rufus- agree on Danault and 42… and JS too… Danault at worst will be bigger 16 with better shot/vision…

    And as good as 2011 class is… 2012 might be better… Hino and Ross can play- AND very limited down sides (can always be 4th line checking/types w/ speed and IQ like we have now… but even better O side!!!)… but Hino might be the Shaw/Saad (or somewhere in between)… and You know I have the TT man crush.

    Saad- dropped a lot his draft year – me thinks cuz of Groin injury- that seemed to drop his play… and due to how low that dude skates- the groin would be an issue…

  10. Mike says:

    Wall….stop, you’re crackin me up

  11. JS says:

    I think the most underrated aspect of Kruger is the fact that he’s made out of rubber.

  12. RyanDale says:

    He’s been great, would like to see his shot get better and I’m sure it will. Needs to shoot more. But like Brad says, he’s a little Hossa, and has room to improve to a real force like 81. Plus Q lets him play!

  13. RyanDale says:

    16 also has a unique trait that allows him to perfectly adapt to 2 on 1s with 26 . What seemed to be 1 too many passes from 16 was actually a perfect tap in for the slo-mo Zus.
    Whats the phrase about comedy being all in the timing? See this play for example :-)

  14. ebonyraptor says:

    He wasn’t given the nickname Manchild by his teammates for nuttin. He just turned 21 a couple months ago and he has the frame to get bigger/stronger so it’s hard to know what his ceiling will be, but even if he levels off – his current level is pretty good.

    I was pleasantly surprised that he is faster than I expected. Once he matures a little more over the next year or two, I think he has the makings of a top power forward in the league. He may never develop the nasty edge that the best power forwards have but that’s OK as long as he does everything else very well.

    I agree his shot and his willingness to shoot could be better but odds are they will and when that happens he will be the monster needed to step into Hossa’s place as Hossa’s game starts to decline.

    I love the Manchild!

  15. Phil says:

    Parts of Saad’s game show steady improvement. He has the talent and he is getting the confidence that comes with experience. The strength he has on his skates is running to Toews, Hossa levels. For such a young guy that is scary good. This past month we are seeing his confidence with the puck grow. The next thing that will happen is he will look for his shot at the right time. Often overlooked is his willingness to back check and play some D. Watching Hossa has I am sure has rubbed off on him. With this kid it’s all positive moving forward. With Callahan hurt won’t Saad be on the USA Olympic squad for sure? I think he deserves it, first on talent, and secondly he knows what it takes to play and win on the big stage.

  16. Sr. Brad says:

    Excellent article Tab and great timing…Saad has hit another level in his play (consistently) and has actually been producing more with LESS ice time of late…and off the top line…Saad’s legs are still a lot bigger than this top section, so as he continues to fill out up top, he will become an even more dominant offensive player, and he will start to score more EASIER goals…too often in his early stages, his goals had to be things of beauty…but with his maturity and strength, he’s going to be able the crash the net and pick up 10-12 garbage goals a season, putting his total over 30…he’s Lil Hoss

    Mike, I totally understand what you are saying and agree…and I think you will like this observation…the more I watch Garret Ross this year in Rockford, the more he reminds me of Saad and not so much Shaw…I always saw Ross as Shaw 2.0, but when Garret develops his hands a little better, he has the smarts, the speed and the strength to be another Saad-like player…

    As to Saad falling, the rumours over his “attitude” were invented by TV analysts looking for answers draft day…Saad dropped because of his injuries…and he had injuries because he was growing so fast…that’s no longer any kind of issue…on draft day, I commented that the Hawks were going to take Saad with their 1st pick of the 2nd round…and I was disappointed that they hadn’t for about 2 seconds…once I heard that the pick was Clendening, I was ecstatic…I cannot state strongly enough my certainty of Clendening future…he’s an elite DMan in the making…when the Hawks took Saad with their 2nd pick of the 2nd round, it was the icing on the cake…I have stated numerous times this draft has a chance to go down as the best in Hawks history.

    Rufus is right about Nordstrom and Danault…I really like both of these players…Nordstrom has already shown his abilities (even offensively), he literally just needs more muscle to help with his confidence…and Danault is a special kid…he has that unique Jean Belliveau quality to him…he’s a leader and he’s strong…next year or perhaps part way through the following season, he will be with the Hawks as a contributor…

    Wall has been “down” or leery about McNeil, but I’ve seen more than enough to know that this kid is a sure thing with the Hawks…certainly, he is learning to bring his A game night in and night out in Rockford, but if he were called up tomorrow, I’d guarantee he’d make an impact…

    So, if you look at that draft, with Shaw in the 5th, Broadhurst in the 7th, with Paliotta and Dahlbeck in the 3rd, it has to be the deepest draft we will likely ever see…certainly the Savard, Murray, Larmer draft is hard to top because they are 3 of the best players in Hawk’s history, but this one could do it…

    Great comments everyone!

  17. Sr. Brad says:

    Phil, you’re right, no one should over look his back checking and defensive game, as Tab aptly pointed out, he’s a freaking +34 in his FIRST 82 games…has anyone had a higher +/- debate??? That’s incredible…

  18. Nate says:

    someone mentioned Saad being a power forward, who still might get bigger (???).

    Saad is a finesse player with great playmaking skills and great hands who happens to have some size. ‘power forward’ really doesn’t describe his playstyle.

  19. AJ says:

    The days of guys potting 40 goals and putting players through the glass is gonzo. Lucic is probably the closest thing to what you would call a traditional power forward.

    Nash, Hossa, Malkin, Saad to an extent — Big guys who are strong on their skates but don’t really deliver earth shattering checks on a regular basis are what the modern “power forward” is. And when Rick Nash drops his shoulder he has one hell of a dirty power move. It is a work of art.

  20. Morrison says:

    I read that since the start of the 12-13 season, weve played 82 season games now and are 59-13-10. Only 3 teams in history had a better 82 game season/stretch, 77 & 78 Canadians and 96 redwings. Even though this is the split seasons, the competition wasn’t as hard as it is now/not even close, and not even mentioning the salary cap.

  21. Morrison says:

    I like this Saader guy.

  22. ebonyraptor says:

    To clarify what I meant by power forward – a player who uses his strength to crash the net and to hang on to the puck. The way Rick Nash lowers his shoulder and drives the net is a good example. The way Hossa holds onto the puck by bulling his way through defenders is another example. So even without the Lucic nasty edge, I consider Saad a power forward in the making because he has shown the strength to lower his shoulder to drive the net and the strength to bull his way through defenders. What he needs to do is get stronger so he can consistently do those things that up until now we’ve only seen glimpses of.

  23. Buck Turgidson says:

    I like Saad. Something I’ve noticed – last year in the playoffs, it seemed like teams could get him off his game by being physical with him. In the few games I’ve seen this year he seems less likely to be intimidated, and in some games is taking the physical action to the opponent.

    That, to me, is a big deal in a league where teams will try to rough up our Hawks (since they can’t keep up in a skill game)

  24. trnhockey says:

    Saad has to be a lock for team USA.

  25. MS says:

    Great article Tab. Did it sink in that only 4 first rounders from the 2011 draft have played 82 games while the Hawks 2nd round and 5th round picks join that elite group! While the 2011 draft has the potential of being one for the ages I see very few comments regarding Dahlbeck. From what I have seen he has terrific potential and has stepped up the offensive part of his game this year. It will be interesting to see who gets moved to break a logjam between Clendening, Johns and Dahlbeck. What a great problem to have! Anyone else think it could be Leddy that gets moved to make room? He should bring significant value and will need to be paid as a top 4 D on his next contract.

  26. SouthSideHawkMan says:

    Ive said it on here before but it deserves being said again Saad is the best hockey player the Hawks have drafted since Toews and Kane.

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