In our preview of the top 20 Calder candidates in McKeen’s Hockey Pool Yearbook, back in August, we had this to say about Brandon Saad – “Pittsburgh native exploded into a star during his second OHL term. Developing power winger could be the answer to fill left-wing void on Hawks’ top line.” – It would appear he is now blossoming into both a top six role beside Jonathan Toews, and when healthy, Marian Hossa. They are ostensibly the second line after Kane’s dominant performance, but that is the very definition of quibbling. The Calder talk has increased with each passing game.
After a slow start offensively he exploded for 15 points in 14 games in March (34-7-13-20 to date) and has played over 20 minutes a game in his four of his last five starts, the exception being his three point domination of Detroit, curiously. The commitment and patience of the coaching staff was prescient, but it was strong two way play that earned Saad their confidence. It has been no secret finding a fit on LW with Toews has been something the Hawks have coveted for a couple of seasons. His work ethic creates turnovers, complementing the puck possession skills of Toews and Hossa, two of the better two-way players in the league.
As coach Quenneville explains in a good read: March 18, 2013 Chicago Sun-Times article by Mark Lazerus
“Early on in the season, he didn’t have any production at all to show for what he was doing, [but] I thought that line was dangerous every night,” Quenneville said. “Eventually, they start going in for you. … He sees plays and protects well. He can do it himself, but he’s got a couple of guys he can give it to that can finish, so it’s been a real good line for us.”
He had a transformative season in the OHL last season with the Saginaw Spirit (44-34-42-76) and earned an OHL First Team All Star berth, despite appearing in only 44 games (hand injury in November). The opportunity to skate in the AHL during the lockout aided his adjustment to the pro level. The rest was circumstance, hard work and willingness to learn. From an interesting article by Dan Rosen:
“[Toews] is obviously a great player, but being able to play with him, he’s been through it at a young age, too, so he talks me through certain plays and teaches me stuff,” Saad said. “He talks about positional stuff, where we’re going to be, things like that. He’s been a real big help. We’re both hard-working players so we gel well together. It started off pretty good but it has been getting better the more we play together.” Dan Rosen, NHL.com, March 31st
He has seen increased power play time with injuries to Patrick Sharp and Hossa, but the PP only accounts for 3 points this season. Hard won fantasy bruises suggest not putting too much stock in rookies with a hot month or players dependent on line mates for production. The 20 year old Saad appears to have a bright future but allow for some development and hot and cold streaks. If he finds lasting chemistry with Jonathan Toews, who is only 24 years old himself, he could become a solid fantasy asset in the near term with upside in the next 2 to 3 years.