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."
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.