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.