BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Brandon Saad has been a break-through rookie for the Chicago Blackhawks this season. Now he’s getting recognized for it.
Saad is one of the finalists for the Calder Memorial Trophy, awarded to the league’s top rookie, the NHL announced today. Fellow forwards Brendan Gallagher of the Montreal Canadiens and Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers are the other two finalists.
“He’s had a real nice year for us,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He came into the NHL, maybe under the radar when he started this season, but what he’s contributed to our team game is very strong. Absorbing more responsibility as the season’s worn on and playing critical minutes were based on how well he played and how consistent he played. His strength, size and anticipation on both sides of the puck are going to make him a nice player going forward. This is a real nice start to his career.”
Saad was grateful, but focused on tomorrow’s game more.
“I’m really excited; it’s a big honor to be mentioned,” he said. “But I’m focused on the playoffs now.”
The 20-year-old played in two games for the Blackhawks in the 2011-12 regular season and two in the playoffs. But when he made the team out of training camp for the second consecutive season this winter, he ran with it. Saad joined top liners Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa after Daniel Carcillo was injured in the regular-season opener, and he has played well there throughout this season. Saad had 10 goals and 17 assists in 46 games this season.
“It’s great honor to be in that list of guys,” Bickell said of Saad being among the finalists. “He had a slow start, adjusting to the league, but with our veterans in this room he’s going to be a great hockey player. Hopefully he gets that award.”
Patrick Kane said Saad is as deserving as anyone.
“He’s been awesome from the first game he came in. He’s a big guy, he’s fast and I think he compliments Hossa and Toews very well. They’ve had a lot of success and he’s been a big part of it,” Kane said. “Hopefully he gets that honor. It would’ve been fun to see what he could’ve done over 82 games, but it’s good to see him do what he’s done nonetheless.”
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This is the third time in the last six years that a Blackhawks player has been nominated for the Calder. Toews was nominated in 2007-08 as was Patrick Kane, who won the award that season. Kris Versteeg was nominated in 2008-09.
The winner will be announced during the Stanley Cup Final.