Blackhawks' Saad takes gigantic step in sophomore season

Blackhawks' Saad takes gigantic step in sophomore season
June 3, 2014, 8:15 pm
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Brandon Saad was nicknamed “man-child” during his rookie season with the Blackhawks. Even then, however, Saad didn’t have an I’m-new-here look to his game. He’s always been fearless, always been a heavy player.

Saad took another step in his game this past season, showing his versatility at left and right wing on different lines and then forming a potent trio with Andrew Shaw and Patrick Kane in the Western Conference Final. And later this summer, the Blackhawks may want to get him wrapped up.

Much like Jonathan Toews and Kane, the Blackhawks can sign Saad to a new deal after July 1. Saad will make $832,500 in 2014-15, the final season of his entry-level deal. He’ll be a restricted free agent entering the 2015-16 season.

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The Blackhawks certainly like what Saad has done in his brief time here. Saad had 19 goals and 28 assists during the regular season and six goals and 10 assists in 19 postseason games. General manager Stan Bowman used Saad as an example of a young guy playing a major role with the Blackhawks.

“I think he’s kind of taken his game up to that next level,” Bowman said. “He had a very good season in general; it wasn’t just he past few weeks. But you’re looking for, expecting him to kind of play up to that level starting next year.”

Saad was happy with his second season. Outside of a late-season injury and struggles a few games when he first returned from that upper-body malady, Saad was nowhere near suffering a sophomore slump.

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“Even though it wasn’t the year we wanted it to be, I think I came a long way,” Saad said on Tuesday. “I’m happy with how I ended playing.”

So was coach Joel Quenneville, who sees that Saad-Shaw-Kane combination starting next season, too.

“We definitely like what he brings,” he said. “We like the ability of him in tight puck areas to have kind of an explosion in a way where you can get some separation of coverage. Maybe he found a nice perfect linemate in Patrick Kane and that might be something that might really help him and help our team, as well. I think when you talk about Kaner and what he brings, and Saader, it’s kind of a different variable. But certainly both have the capability of being high-end in their environment. (Saad’s) consistency this year was something. Going forward in his third year, I think the upside’s huge.”

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Saad would like to get another deal in place when it’s eligible to happen. He said “there’s been no talk lately, but I guess we’ll see what the future holds.” Saad would be a coveted player if the Blackhawks don’t lock him up when they get the chance. But it sounds like they’ll do what’s necessary to make sure he’s theirs for a while.

“He’s got a very bright future,” Bowman said of Saad. “We’re excited about what he’s been able to accomplish, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg for him.”