No Saad story: Rookie impressing Blackhawks

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No Saad story: Rookie impressing Blackhawks

Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011
Posted: 5:42 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com Blackhawks InsiderFollow @TraMyersCSN
Brandon Saad should be overwhelmed right now.

The 18-year-old product of Gibsonia, Pa., about 20 miles outside of Pittsburgh, is surrounded by veterans and proven stars in the Chicago Blackhawks' training camp. He's supposed to be nervous, supposed to be going through the ups and downs that a teen would on this stage.

But he's having none of it. He's calm. And he's treating the NHL game like he did the high school one. For him, hockey is hockey.

"Once you get on the ice, like most (hockey) people, you've been playing your whole life and that's just something you do out there," he said.

And Saad has also earned a fourth start on Sunday when the Blackhawks travel to Detroit. Saad has been the surprise of training camp, something coach Joel Quenneville sees happen every year.

Still, nobody quite expected the Blackhawks' second-round draft pick to have this much of an impact this quickly. The question is, can he really make this Blackhawks team?

"I don't know. If he keeps doing that way every day we'll probably be talking about him the next day," said Quenneville on Friday, after Saad's goal claimed a 3-2 Blackhawks victory over the Washington Capitals. "This is not something we envisioned. But every training camp there's someone who gets your attention and captures it, makes you look at the case differently. He's done that."

So the plot thickens a bit. It would've been easy for Quenneville to talk us all off the teen-makes-team ledge on Friday night. Say Saad won't play on Sunday. Say that, despite this stunning camp debut, Saad is still 18, still has too much room to grow to even consider him making the 2011-12 Blackhawks. But Saad has made it that tough on Quenneville and company. He's too hard to ignore.

Teammates have noticed, too. Saad clicked in the third period on Friday with Viktor Stalberg and Jonathan Toews, whose line provided all the offense in that final frame. Toews, who was the teen making a splash a few years ago, recognizes the same qualities in Saad.

"You have to have confidence that you can play against (veterans) and fit right in and have respect for them," Toews said. "It's all about finding that confidence inside you. He's one of those guys that's showing he can do that. He has the mindset to be out there and make plays at any level."

Will Saad make it? Hard to say.

This Blackhawks roster is still veteran heavy, so it's still likely that Saad will head to juniors (Saginaw of the OHL). Whether or not he's with the Blackhawks this season, he's certainly left his mark.

"It was a pretty third goal to finish it. He had a special game again," Quenneville said. "He's someone we've talked about. It's still early in camp, but it's been fun watching him."

Briefly

Forward Rob Flick, defenseman Brian Fahey and goaltender Alec Richards were assigned to the Rockford IceHogs on Saturday afternoon. The Blackhawks' roster now stands at 38 players.

The Blackhawks will play the Detroit Red Wings in Detroit at 4 p.m. on Sunday. The game will be televised locally on WGN and nationally on the NHL Network. It will also be broadcast on WGNradio.com.

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

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Eight draft picks in about 3 ½ hours. It was a busy Saturday for the Blackhawks, and when general manager Stan Bowman talked that afternoon about the team’s Day 2 haul, he came prepared.

“I have my little cheat sheet,” Bowman said of the paper on which he had written the Blackhawks’ eight newest prospects.

After a few days’ worth of moves the Blackhawks focused on the future, taking nine players over two days at the NHL Draft. It was a successful weekend for the Blackhawks, who hosted the draft for the first time and built up assets, especially on the blue line. Five of the Blackhawks’ nine selections were defensemen.

“One of the things we talked about was looking at the market. There’s a high value on defensemen. We’re not necessarily looking at the draft but our team this year and over the next couple of years; those are the assets that are valuable around the league,” Bowman said. “Look at the trade Calgary made [for Travis Hamonic], defensemen are a valuable commodity. That was a priority coming in and we were able to accomplish it.”

What comes next

The Blackhawks got what they wanted at this weekend’s draft but the focus will soon shift, as free agency opens on July 1. It remains to be seen what the Blackhawks will have cap-wise come a week from now. Currently, according to CapFriendly.com, they’re $1.445 million over the $75 million cap. It’s doubtful the Blackhawks apply the long-term injured reserve tag on Marian Hossa during the offseason. It’s possible they could still trade Marcus Kruger to gain some space. Bowman said, one way or another, “there will be some movement.”

“We’ll bring some players in, I don’t know how many, what position or what level,” he said. “This is where there’s a lot of activity, the couple weeks in the middle of June until the middle of July. That’s when the most changes happen. We’ll go to work, now that we’re past this.”

Wait for it

The Blackhawks also have to decide whether or not to qualify restricted free agents Dennis Rasmussen and Tomas Jurco. Bowman said that’ll be decided by Monday.

“I’ve had discussions with both agents,” he said. “I don’t have an answer right now but we’ll have that worked out in the next day and a half.”

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson heard some of the rumors, but not to a large degree. The former Blackhawks defenseman wasn’t spending a lot of time on the internet reading up on his potential fate. He figured he’d still stay put in Chicago.

“But when my agent called me about the 10-team list, I understood it was serious. Stan [Bowman] wouldn’t ask for that unless they made up their mind already,” Hjalmarsson said via conference call on Saturday. “That’s when it hit me that I’m probably not going to put the Hawks jersey on anymore.”

Indeed, Hjalmarsson’s next jersey will be that of the Arizona Coyotes, who acquired him in exchange for defenseman Connor Murphy on Friday. Hjalmarsson’s departure marks the end of the line for another Blackhawks core player, and this one is jarring in how it will change the team’s defense.

Speaking of change, Hjalmarsson faces a lot of it himself now. Sure, there’s the obvious change for a guy who’s played his entire career in one place. It’s new surroundings and a new team, on which he knows former Blackhawks teammate Antti Raanta and fellow countryman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

But the Coyotes have dealt with a lot of upheaval lately. Goaltender Mike Smith is gone. So is veteran Shane Doan. On Thursday, head coach Dave Tippett and the Coyotes parted ways.

“They’re on a rebuild, a lot of new faces, lot of changes,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’s tough to know what to expect but I think they’re a hungry organization that wants to win like other teams. I’m looking forward to try to contribute with playing my game, just try to get the organization back in the playoffs.”

Hjalmarsson should find chemistry with Ekman-Larsson – the two were teammates in the Winter Olympics in Sochi – and Hjalmarsson will likely play a bigger role with the Coyotes. Arizona will probably look to Hjalmarsson a lot during its rebuild, given his Cup-winning history.

The first 24 hours were full of mixed emotions of Hjalmarsson. With his limited no-move clause, he was always a likely candidate to be moved from a Blackhawks team laden will full no-move clauses. He’s turning a page, but he won’t forget his time in Chicago anytime soon.

“I’m trying to always be a positive guy,” Hjalmarsson said. “I spent my whole 20s in Chicago, 10 unbelievable years. I didn’t think I’d win three Cups. Hopefully I can get one more before my career is over. I had the best time in Chicago, enjoyed every single year, playing in front of the best fans in the league. I’ve been spoiled. Now it’s time for me and my family to move on and seize the opportunity in Arizona and create some new fond memories.”