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.

Tanner Kero latest to try and fill Artem Anisimov's skates

Tanner Kero latest to try and fill Artem Anisimov's skates

PITTSBURGH – Tanner Kero's been thrown into a lot of different situations in his time with the Blackhawks, be it third- or fourth-line center or penalty kill.

But with Artem Anisimov out, the second-line center spot has become new top-line, left-wing spot: The Blackhawks will keep trying guys out until they find one that works. Kero's the latest to get that opportunity, and since it worked well on Monday, he'll be there again on Wednesday.

Kero will center Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane again when the Blackhawks host the Pittsburgh Penguins. The line had a good start to Monday's game against the Lightning in Tampa, scoring the team's first two goals — Kero assisted on Panarin's opener.

Coach Joel Quenneville liked Kero's first go-around there.

"Defensively he's in a good spot — he's usually in a reliable spot in his own end — he made a couple of nice plays offensively and didn't change his game too much," Quenneville said. "It's not easy playing with guys at that next level. It's certainly a great challenge and a great opportunity, so I thought he did a great job, took advantage of it. We'll see how he does going forward but we'll keep him in there for [Wednesday's] game and that gives us some more options."

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Learning on the fly can be part of a rookie season, especially when injuries arise. Jonathan Toews said Kero's handled everything well this season.

"Come to think of it, it's one of those little things that maybe goes over my head but he's definitely one of those versatile players who's as consistent as ever," Toews said. "He has, for his age, an incredible level of maturity and he carries that with him wherever he goes. You're seeing offensive improvement, too. He was making some good plays with Bread Man and Kaner. He's showing he can do it all and I think his work ethic and attitude's a source of that success."

Earlier this season Kero was with guys like Ryan Hartman and Vinnie Hinostroza. They were all familiar with each other from their Rockford days, and that showed. Playing with two guys you don't know so well? It's a bit of a challenge, and one the three talk out. But ultimately, Kero said you have to rely on your instincts. 

"You go over things before the game and on the bench, get a feel for what you might want to do. But then you just have to play hockey," Kero said. "You have to trust your game, make plays. You know they're going to make plays with the puck so you try to use your speed and get open and try to go to the net, create space for them and a little traffic in front and try to capitalize on opportunities."

Anisimov will be out another 1-2 weeks. Asked if Anisimov has started skating back in Chicago yet, Quenneville said, "I don't think so but I'm not positive. But he's progressing." Filling Anisimov's skates isn't easy, as evidenced by the Blackhawks' search for his temporary replacement. Kero is the third guy to get that shot, and he took advantage of his first showing.

"Obviously it's a great opportunity to play with two great players," Kero said. "You just try to do everything you can and do the little things right."

Briefly

- Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith didn't practice on Tuesday but both are expected to play against the Penguins.

- Corey Crawford gets the start against Pittsburgh.

- Hartman, scratched after a rough game against the Florida Panthers, is probably back in against the Penguins.

Blackhawks sign prospect Matheson Iacopelli to entry-level contract

Blackhawks sign prospect Matheson Iacopelli to entry-level contract

The Blackhawks officially agreed to terms with prospect Matheson Iacopelli on a two-year entry-level contract that begins next season and runs through the 2018-19 campaign.

He will report to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

The 22-year-old forward recently completed his sophomore season at Western Michigan, where he scored a team-high 20 goals and added 16 assists in 40 games. It was a huge bounce-back year after recording only one goal and six assists in 27 games during his freshman season.

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A third-round pick (No. 83 overall) by the Blackhawks in 2014, Iacopelli possesses a dangerous shot and is a big-bodied winger at 6-foot-3, 206 pounds. His two-way game still needs fine-tuning, something he will certainly work on in Rockford, but he gives the IceHogs another much-needed scorer.

Iacopelli is the fourth Blackhawks prospect to sign this season out of college, joining John Hayden, Anthony Louis and Luc Snuggerud.