Saad the latest surprise youngster for Hawks


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, 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's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Preview: Blackhawks host Flames Monday on CSN

Preview: Blackhawks host Flames Monday on CSN

The Blackhawks (3-3, 6 points) take on the Calgary Flames (1-4-1, 3 points) on Monday, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins with Blackhawks Pregame Live at 7 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final horn to get analysis and player reaction on Blackhawks Postgame Live.

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Richard Panik fueling Blackhawks' top line

Richard Panik fueling Blackhawks' top line

Richard Panik was coming off his first career hat trick last week when he was asked about solidifying his spot on the top line with Jonathan Toews.

“I wouldn’t call it mine, for now,” Panik said.

The right wing’s hesitancy was understandable: Outside of some Blackhawks veterans, your place on a line is only as good as your last game.

But considering how he’s playing right now and the amount of goals he’s scored, you’d think Panik will be a top liner for a little while longer.

Panik scored the game-tying goals against his former team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, with 88 seconds remaining in regulation on Saturday night. There was probably a little feeling of vindication for Panik on that goal – Panik spent last season with the Leafs’ minor-league team until he was traded to the Blackhawks. But no matter the opponent, Panik’s been a scoring threat.

“We didn’t expect six goals in six games but we knew he’d be an offensive threat for us,” Toews said. “He’s showing consistently. He had the hat trick – when you have a game like that, the puck keeps finding you and he’s making no mistakes around the net. He’s shown he can score goals in any which way.”

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Part of the reason Panik’s back on the top line was the Blackhawks wanted to get more balance among the forwards. Marian Hossa, a longtime sight on that line, is on the third. But again, it’s all in what you do with the opportunity.

“The position he ended up being in was probably more so [for] being ready every game, consistent, doing the right things,” coach Joel Quenneville said after Saturday’s game. “He has all the tools we look for. He’s coming up with loose pucks, hanging around the net, going to the hard areas, giving us some physicality and finish as well. That was a big one, for sure, so he’s been a very pleasant start for us and for himself.”

The Blackhawks will always take goals no matter who scores them. But it’s how and from where Panik’s scoring those goals that’s especially good for the Blackhawks. Constantly looking for a net-front presence, Panik’s providing it. Most of his goals have been within a few feet of the net.

“Yeah, I’m just trying to find the space in front of the net and the goals are scored from there,” he said. “That’s the area I want to go to and it’s working.”

In six games Panik has already reached the totals he had in his 30 games with the Blackhawks last season (six goals, two assists). Panik approaches every game on the first line like it could be his last up there, and considering how often the Blackhawks change combinations that’s a smart approach. But the Blackhawks were looking for more consistent scoring on that top line, and as long as Panik helps provide that, he’ll stay put.

“Consistency was my biggest weakness. I’m just focusing on that, bringing it every night,” Panik said. “I think I know what I’m capable of. I know I can play on this level. Now I have an opportunity. I just have to take advantage of it and keep playing this way.”