By Carl Chimenti -
Brandon Saad has defied the dreaded NHL hangover, a period of re-adjustment that a lot of Major Junior A players go through after returning from an extended NHL camp.
The Gibsonia, Penn. native was drafted this past June, in the second round (43rd overall) by the Chicago Blackhawks. After attending their rookie camp, Saad was invited to their main camp where he played well enough to make the team.
He appeared in the Blackhawks first two games, a home-and-home series against the Dallas Stars, and was the only player selected in the second round to suit up for an NHL game this season. Saad skated on the top two lines with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane, and held his own.
Since returning, Saad has been on a tear, scoring at a two-point per game clip with nine goals and 18 points in nine games. He scored a team record-tying four goals against the Brampton Battalion in just his third game back and completed his first week with an incredible six goals and four assists, which helped the Spirit break out of an early-season funk with three straight wins.
For his effort, both the OHL and the CHL named him player of the week for Oct. 17-23.
“I just tried to bring back what I learned in Chicago to Saginaw and so far it’s worked out well,” said the 6-foot-2, 211-pound left winger.
“Of course coming back and being able to play with talented line mates like Vincent Trocheck and Garret Ross has also been very helpful in the early success that I have had.”
Saad has obviously been very happy with the way things went in the Windy City.
“I went there with the intension of working hard and showcasing my talent and I came back with an NHL contract,” Saad said. “I got a chance to play in a couple of regular season games and I received about an average of thirteen minutes, in ice time, per game.”
The experience that Saad received during his stint with the Blackhawks not only sharpened his skills, but also showed him what it takes to become a pro hockey player, both on and off the ice.
“It was great because you see the guys and the dedication they have to the game,” said Saad, who is beginning his second season with the Spirit. “All the guys were really nice and helpful. They all work extremely hard at getting better every day.”
In 2007-08, Saad scored 43 goals and 51 assists in 76 games for the Pittsburgh Hornets Midget team. Saginaw drafted Saad in the first round (10th overall), of the 2008 OHL Priority Draft, but he opted to join the Mahoning Valley Phantoms, with the intention of keeping his college hockey eligibility intact. He put up solid numbers, scoring 29 goals and 47 points in his only season in the North American Hockey League.
He followed that up with a strong season in Ann Arbor, for the U.S. National Team Development Program, scoring another 29 goals and 49 points.
The Spirit never lost faith that Saad would join the team, and through some hard work from head scout and assistant general manager Jim Paliafito, Saad arrived for the 2010-11 season.
Once again, he adjusted to a new league and potted 27 goals and 28 assists in 59 regular season games and added three goals and 11 points in 12 playoff games.
“Brandon is a terrific all-round hockey player and brings a lot to the table,” said Todd Watson, Spirit general manager and head coach. “He can play in all situations. He has good hands, can score and he brings a physical element to his game as well.”
Saad was selected to play for Team Orr in the 2011 CHL Home Hardware Top Prospects game.
Injuries slowed him down in the second half of last season, but Saad says that he is fine now.
“I am all healed up,” Saad said. “I am looking forward to this season and along with the rest of the team we are ready to start playing like we did last year.”