Brandon Saad has been here before, done this before.
The Pittsburgh native was the big surprise out of the Blackhawks 2011 training camp, earning a roster spot right out of the gate. It was a tremendous experience for the 20-year-old, one that gave him an early taste of professional hockey and all that comes with it.
It was definitely a whirlwind, said Saad. Its tough to make it here at that young of an age. But with injuries and stuff, I got the opportunity and it was fun.
That opportunity should make this attempt to make the 2013 Blackhawks a little easier. Well, sort of. Yes, Saad is used to the big stage, to the competition that training camp can bring. But with camp much shorter, few open spots and tight competition, Saad will be fighting for a spot out of camp again this season.
Saad is enjoying his first year of pro hockey regardless. Playing the last four months in Rockford, Saad has had his good stretches, including this past weekend. He tallied six points in two games, including the overtime game-winning goal against the Milwaukee Admirals on Saturday night.
First-year pro, so its definitely been different and a challenge there, Saad said. But its definitely helped my game.
Coach Joel Quenneville, who got to watch Saad in Rockford through the fall and early winter, said Saads potential is huge.
He had some stretches where he was great, others where he was just OK. But hes coming off an outstanding weekend and hes capable of playing at our level, Quenneville said. He showed he can handle playing here but well see right now, whether its about numbers or opportunity. But he can play, and can play with top guys as well.
Where Saad fits in is still uncertain. The Blackhawks are healthy and deep right now, and there are a few guys from Rockford fighting for a job here. But Saad has been here before, done this before. And could do it again.
I definitely got my feet wet last year, so it feels a little different with the confidence, he said. I really feel good. Ive been playing hockey all year, so I hope I have that advantage.