The Rise of Saad

Brandon Saad

As the 2014-15 season progresses, Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad continues to assert himself as a force to be reckoned with on Chicago’s top line.

When Patrick Sharp went down in early November, the door opened for Saad to move back into the team’s top six. A lot was made – and rightfully so – of the emergence of the Blackhawks’ second line of Kris Versteeg, Patrick Kane and Brad Richards. But Saad added nine points in November to the line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, both of whom finished the month with double-digit points as well.

In seven games in December, Saad is tied for the Hawks’ lead with six points. Only Kane (four) has more goals than Saad (three) on the team over that stretch, and his plus-five rating is the best on the roster.

Entering Tuesday’s action, Saad is tied with, among others, Sidney Crosby and Mark Giordano for 14th in the NHL with 20 even strength points. He leads the Blackhawks in that regard.

Saad also leads the Blackhawks with 19 points during 5-on-5 action, which it tied for 10th in the NHL. He also leads the team in 5-on-5 points per 60 minutes, averaging 2.91 – which ranks 14th in the NHL. That average is better than the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Zach Parise and Corey Perry. His 5-on-5 iFenwick (70) ranks fourth on the Hawks, behind only Hossa, Kane and Richards.

Among Blackhawks who have played more than 10 games, only three players – Richards, Versteeg and Daniel Carcillo – have a better PDO than Saad (103.3). Only Versteeg (1.32) has a higher first assist per 60 rate than Saad (0.92).

Still only 22, Saad finished third on the team with 50 takeaways last season; Toews had 51, and Hossa led the team with 75. He posted 36 even strength points last season (16 goals, 20 assists) in 78 games, which ranked fourth among Blackhawks forwards behind Sharp, Toews, Kane and Hossa.

The Blackhawks drafted Saad 43rd overall in the second round of the 2011 Draft, but he ranks third from that class in points behind three of the top eight overall selections (Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sean Couturier). Only four players from that draft – the same three plus teammate Andrew Shaw – have scored more than Saad’s 36 goals at the NHL level since being selected three years ago.

In 2015, Saad will be a restricted free agent.His play not only warrants a significant raise from his entry level contract as coach Joel Quenneville has shown confidence to play him in any situation. With the salary cap being a relative concern – expectations are that it will be around $73M – keeping Saad will be one of Stan Bowman’s primary objectives in the coming months.

12 thoughts on “The Rise of Saad

  1. Nice of you Tab to spotlight Saad. He has been in beast mode the past 2 weeks since emerging from what seemed to be a stretch of games where he was in some sort of mental funk. Could be he was sick, but he wasn’t catching passes very well for example, and it was as though he was trying to do to much once he would get puck control. There were people questioning what’s wrong with this guy? What we have to remember is this player is still just a kid. He has the tools to be improve and be a really great player in the NHL. Hossa aging leaves Saad room to fill in that void. Not saying Saad will be Hossa, but there is much to Saad’s game that is similar. Could 20 have a better mentor than Hoss? The kid is very strong on the puck, see’s the ice well, and is becoming a good 2 way player. Would like to see his shot improve, and perhaps play a shade more physical, but I think he gets it. This is a guy that the Hawks need to keep around so his payday next year will be a good one, and justifiably so.

    Lets Go Hawks!

  2. Saad has been great fun to watch. The kid has a solid head on his shoulders, can play in all phases and every now and then makes you jump out of your seat. The obvious one on Sunday was the game-winner vs. Calgary, but his breakaway in the first also had everyone on their feet. A little burst of speed and he splits the defenders and goes in alone against Hiller. He didn’t score on that one but seems to have at least one play like that per game. Agreed with Tab that figuring out 20’s next contract is SB’s biggest task (most likely at the expense of Sharp or vise-versa if he can’t find a taker for 10).

  3. Lotta monies. Should be interesting to see how long that top line stays intact.

    Also, if he is going to be playing reduced minutes, can we get Sharp on the PK and Hossa off it? There was a time when he was really really really good at killing penalties and scoring shorties.

    And at what point do you start giving the veterans some days? Like for Hossa and Rozy and Richards. Probably not a terrible idea. The schedule gets a little light around the holidays here and may be a good time to get some of those older folks a breather. February looks like it is going to be a grind and completely burning these guys out would be dumb. Especially if there is some flexibility in the cap. Get a look at some of the other youngsters and such.

  4. Great article Tab, and well deserved recognition for Saad who looks like he is taking his game to another level this year. Bowman needs to do the right thing and lock him up long term (6 years?), it will end up being a steal in the long term… a shorter 2-3 year deal will be cheaper, but the Hawks then risk losing him, as I expect him to keep getting better, and more expensive.

    Raanta starting in goal tonight. Keith is out sick, means we will see all three of Rundblad, Rosival, and Erixon tonight.

  5. I love Brandon Saad’s well rounded game. He continues to remind me more and more of Steve Larmer minus the elite level scoring. Gramps was a hell of a player and so is Saad. He’s hands down the best forward drafted since Kane.

    He is also one of the reasons this team has climbed the standings. As Saad has got better the Hawks have got better. I always felt like if Q skated him with frontline talent he would get results.

    Its also one of the things that has helped Sharp for years. Playing next to generational talents like Toews and Kane open up the ice for players. Sharp has benefited from those 2 for years. Now its time for Saad to do so as well.

    Lets hope the Hawks can lock Saad up for less then 5 million a season.

  6. Not ready to anoint Saad as a surefire star. He has more giveaways than takeaways this year, his Corsi is 3 points less than the team average and his play has been very inconsistent prior to this last splurge. Comparing his stats to 2 years ago, you’ll see that you have basically the same player. Where is the improvement? His time on both the PK and PP has been basically, meh! Also, agree with Phil that he lacks a real physical game or a great shot.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a keeper but I would not shell out big bucks to keep him. A short-term bridge contract seems in order. At best, I’m thinking a smaller version of Johan Franzen – solid but no star

  7. Saad has led the team in even strength scoring for basically the whole year and for the first part of the season was shooting around 3% sooooo the recent “splurge” is what you would call “evening out.” He’s been top 3 in PP60 for most of the year too which neat.

    He’s also been shuffled up and down the line up and still put up points.

    Moves well without the puck, has great vision, passing has definitely improved, solid on the boards… Did not miss Patrick Sharp… At all… Just sayn…

    47 points two years ago… on pace for 56 this year… Which would have been top 60 in the league last year. That’s what like a 15% increase?

    Wow.

  8. I think SB will lock him up before July 1. Looking at 2 years $7.2mm, a $3.6mm Cap Hit. Assuming Saad has a year like last year + expected growth, he could possibly attract an offer sheet at $4.0mm per year for 3 or 4 years. His best bet is to stay with Chicago another couple of years, become more of a stud than he is and sign a 6 year contract at the age of 25 where ever.

  9. Mike, I like your number. Make him prove it 2 more years. Then see where the salary cap is and more importantly how Hossa, Teuvo, etal. will fit into the picture.

  10. AJ, Saader gets better each yr, just wait until hes 25. Going to love those 10 prime yrs.

    Even though a couple a yrs ago it was a good idea to sign him for 5yrs. With the cap being 73m and going up again each yr. I like the bridge contract for 2.7-3.5/yr and then in a few yrs when your a 30/30 (or more) player to get a higher contract like Sharpys. The cap will go up every yr, I think 20 and 10 stay.

  11. I think Saad has improved his overall game. He still doesn’t finish well enough on a consistent basis to be regarded as a true elite level scorer, nor does he play physical enough on a consistent basis to be regarded as an elite power forward. But, he is still young and he can and probably will improve in both of those areas. The area that seems to be the most improved is his power skating – that is an area where he is already at an elite level. Along with that is more confidence to make power moves to the net. If he can start finishing those plays more consistently, then he will get to the next level.

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