Saad the latest surprise youngster for Hawks

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Saad the latest surprise youngster for Hawks

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Brandon Saad stood in front of the biggest media throng he's seen since he got to Chicago on Tuesday afternoon. The 18-year-old was grinning from ear to ear after the Blackhawks signed him to a three-year entry-level deal, the words "awesome," "exciting" and "unbelievable" dominating his answers.

Yes, the kid is signed. And the kid, at least for now, is staying. Because the kid has earned it.

Saad's hard work has gotten him to this point, so the Blackhawks signed him to his deal which, according to capgeek.com, has an annual cap hit of 795,000. The Blackhawks have recognized the youngster's talent since his rookie camp debut this summer, and general manager Stan Bowman said it's evident that Saad can play at this level.

"The competition has gone up each time and he's responded to the challenge. He's earned a spot," Bowman said in announcing Saad's deal. "He's excited to go and that's a good story for us. We put him in a position to succeed and he seized it."

Now Saad being a good player isn't a shock; he was pegged to be a first-round selection at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. But he didn't make the U.S. world junior team and a groin injury hampered him some last season with the Saginaw Spirit, and his stock dropped.

So he went in the second round instead. Fine. The Blackhawks took him, he took advantage of his training-camp audition and here he is: a teen-ager who will be on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp in Dallas on Friday night. And if Saad used that second-round fall as motivation, it apparently worked.

"I fell in the draft, yeah, but it wasn't my decision," Saad said. "No matter what would've happened you have something to prove. It's a fresh start."

It's probably a lot fresher than he anticipated at this point of his young career. The Blackhawks have had a few young surprises out of recent camps -- defenseman Nick Leddy was last year's at age 19 -- and Saad's story gets added to that lore.

"There's always a guy every year who jumps ahead higher than expected. We've seen it here," Bowman said. "His talent is there. We're the beneficiaries of that. He's 18 years old and plays a pro game already. He's got great years ahead of him."

So how long will Saad stay with the Blackhawks this season? It depends. Saad could play a few games -- up to nine -- with the Blackhawks and then could be headed back to Saginaw. But if he makes a big impact it's going to be hard for the Blackhawks to send him packing.

That will all play itself out. Whether he's here for a few games or for the season, Saad is going to enjoy it.

After all, he's earned it.

"It's sinking in, yeah, a little bit," Saad said. "But I'm still just loving being here. It's going to be awesome."

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

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Five Things from Blackhawks-Rangers: Duels and denied goals

Five Things from Blackhawks-Rangers: Duels and denied goals

There are a lot of similarities between the Blackhawks and the New York Rangers. Both have a nice record to start this season and both are getting through recent injuries as best they can.

And thanks to their goaltending, they had a pretty fun little battle on Friday night.

Antti Raanta edged Scott Darling as the Rangers took a 1-0 overtime victory over the Blackhawks on Friday. It was surprising that Raanta got the start, only because he had started for the Rangers on Thursday against Winnipeg. But he’s been hot, he’s good at the United Center in his career and obviously it was the right decision.

The Blackhawks are back at it on Sunday against another team going through its injury issues, the Dallas Stars. Before then, however, let’s look at the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ overtime loss to the Rangers.

1. A familiar goalie duel. Two seasons ago Scott Darling and Antti Raanta were fighting for the Blackhawks’ backup goaltending spot. So it seemed fitting that they face each other on Friday night. They didn’t disappoint. Each goaltender had his share of stellar stops, many coming in the second period as each team looked for an edge. Raanta got the victory, running his record at the United Center to 15-0-3. The two had a quick, good-natured talk at the end of the game. “It was all friendly,” Darling said. “We were just saying, ‘good job’ and we’re happy for one another.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

2. Kane alright. Patrick Kane got the concussion protocol call in the second period a few moments after he was hit into the glass by Nick Holden. After Kane was called for high-sticking he was sent to the locker room, returning as the Blackhawks went on their first power play of the night at 17:28 of the second period.

3. The Rangers’ successful challenge. Just when you thought the Blackhawks were taking a 1-0 lead the third period (Marian Hossa), the Rangers challenged for offside. They won, nullifying Hossa’s attempt at his 15th goal of the season. Hossa was disappointed, and is frustrated at how some of the rule changes are taking away goals when the league is trying to increase scoring. Coach Joel Quenneville, when asked if he’d like the rule changed if he could, laughed. “Right now? Sure.”

4. A better all-around game. We may be harping on the Blackhawks’ injury situation but when you’re missing three key guys (Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford) it’s going to alter your game. But the Blackhawks played a strong all-around game against the Rangers and had some good scoring chances. All things considered, and against a very good Rangers team, Quenneville liked what he saw. “We know they’re a dangerous team off the rush, a lot of guys can make plays, a ton of speed. You have to respect that in ways and they check well in their own end,” Quenneville said. “I thought we did some good things. I think on the rush game we did a good job of taking away that danger.”

5. When will the Blackhawks return to health? Yeah, we’re looking ahead a little bit on this one, and we may have a clearer picture by Saturday morning. If Toews and Seabrook are skating and come out of the session well, there’s a chance they could play on Sunday. The Blackhawks have done alright despite the injuries. But you have to wonder when they start feeling a bit depleted.