After taking home their second Stanley Cup title in the last four seasons, the Chicago Blackhawks will return much of the same team that took home the title last season, a sharp contrast from what their roster looked like in 2010-11, which followed their last championship season.
One of the reasons that the Blackhawks were able to maintain their roster is the fact that they have one of the deeper farm systems in the game, meaning that several young players were able to make an impact. Younger, for the most part, means cheaper.
The young player that made the biggest impact, even if it didn’t always show up on the stat sheet, was Brandon Saad, who entered his first full season with the team to much fanfare. That attention turned out to be completely warranted, as he ended the season as a Calder Trophy finalist.
Saad had a brilliant season, even if the numbers weren’t always there. He was a regular contributor on the top line, crashing the net and playing down around in the corners. He has the combination of size and speed that could have him as a lock on this top line for the next several years.
His skill set means that the Blackhawks shouldn’t expect a decline from Saad heading into his sophomore season. In fact, with an increased role, he could be even better. Assuming he gets in on the top six, he’s a guy that could/should tally 20 goals next season, in a full year.
Saad also saw an increased opportunity on special teams as the season wore on, particularly on the penalty kill. That should continue on into the next season, where he could become a regular, especially keeping in mind the departure of a guy like Michael Frolik, who was so key in that department.
The 2013-14 season for Saad is going to be an interesting one to watch. Eligible for a contract extension next summer, Saad will certainly be looking to prove he’s part of the core of this team (more than he already has). Heading into his first fulll season, we could see him truly break out for the Chicago Blackhawks.