After notching another goal late in the game against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night, Chicago Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad is on track for a 25-goal, 55-point season while playing primarily on the third line. If he is allowed to remain on the first line with Jonathan Toews and Andrew Shaw (or Marian Hossa when he returns from injury), Saad has a chance to hit 60 points.
Of further interest is Saad’s eye-popping +29, ranking ahead of noted two-way savants Toews and Hossa (+26 and +25, respectively). Underlying this number has been an enormous leap forward in Saad’s effectiveness in his own end of the rink. His defensive positioning is excellent, and he has transformed into one of the NHL‘s elite puck thieves; Saad’s 46 takeaways in just 16 and a half minutes per game have him near the top of the league in takeaways per minute of ice time.
Neither the admirable offensive production nor the exemplary defensive game are Saad’s most important trait, however. The most vital aspect of Saad’s game is his speed, something he possesses in spades; he is clearly the fastest forward on the Blackhawks as far as straight-line quickness is concerned.
Saad’s agility is immensely important to Chicago’s success. It helps him to be outstanding on the forecheck and relentless on the backcheck, in the process significantly aiding the Blackhawks in their ever-present focus on puck possession. In this respect, he is incredibly similar to Hossa. The comparison between the two is not unfounded; indeed, the first two seasons of Saad’s career mirror Hossa’s almost perfectly. Saad is well on his way to becoming a player the caliber of Chicago’s No. 81.
Certainly not bad value for the No. 43 overall pick.