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Hawk eyes are on winger Brandon Saad at prospect camp

Chicago Blackhawks Vs WashingtCapitals. 3rd-Period. Chicago Blackhawks No.43 BrandSaad heads up ice with puck.  I  Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

Chicago Blackhawks Vs Washington Capitals. 3rd-Period. Chicago Blackhawks No.43 Brandon Saad heads up ice with the puck. I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 11, 2012 6:24AM



Brandon Saad might be the only player at the Blackhawks’ prospect camp who can look up at the stands at Johnny’s IceHouse West and name all the members of the team’s brass.

“I’m more familiar,” Saad said Monday after camp opened.

And that familiarity includes just about everything: the media, the city, the practice rink, the routine, the drills, the trainers, the coaches.

It’s no secret that Saad, a solidly built 6-1, 208-pound left wing, has risen to the top of the Hawks’ prospect pipeline. If anyone at camp has a real shot at making the Hawks’ opening-night roster Oct. 13, it’s him.

After all, Saad had two stints with the Hawks last season, making the team out of training camp, playing two games, then getting recalled and seeing time in two playoff games after Marian Hossa was injured.

“You never really know what they’re thinking, but I just think it’s the attitude I have,” said Saad, 19, the only player with any NHL experience at prospect camp. “I never quit last year. I think it went a long way. To bring that in, produce a little more and add a little more skill, it should help out.”

Saad’s chances of making the Hawks always have been considered good, but they improved after star left wing Zach Parise turned down the Hawks’ contract offer — which general manager Stan Bowman called “impressive” — to join the Minnesota Wild.

The Hawks’ hopes for having another top-six wing with speed, skill and some grit now rest with Saad, especially if no major trades or free-agent signings are made. Saad, the 43rd overall pick in 2011, has some of the same attributes as Parise, but he’s unproven.

Still, it was that skill set that earned Saad, who had a stellar 76 points in 44 games for Saginaw of the Ontario Hockey League last season, another shot with the Hawks over more seasoned prospects when Hossa went down in the postseason.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Hawks start pitching Saad as their next young star. He not only has won over Bowman, but also coach Joel Quenneville. Saad also could be seen chatting with Hawks brass Monday, including team president John McDonough and scouting director Mark Kelley.

“I think [Saad is] going to be pushing for a big role on our team,” Bowman said recently.

“The Saad kid, [he’s] encouraging,” Quenneville said.

The Hawks also are adding prospects that Saad, a Pennsylvania native, is familiar with, drafting Saginaw teammate Garret Ross last month in Pittsburgh. Kelley called Ross “an aggressive, in-your-face player” and “a complementary player” who “every time you leave the building, you’re writing something about him.”

“I like [Ross] a lot,” Saad said. “He’s got the grittiness and some skill. You should look forward to watching him this week.”

But it’s Saad everyone truly is watching.

“It’s a clean slate,” Saad said. “I have to come in and prove myself again and play even better to make the team. I’m just looking at a huge summer to try to make the team.”



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