Notice there's no question mark in the headline.
Alright, so the headline is probably at least a little bit of hyperbole. He's not quite in league with the ranks of the league's elite, but there's little doubt that second-year forward Brandon Saad has what it takes to emerge as one of the larger offensive threats on the planet, and not just for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Saad has long been looked at as a steal for the Hawks. He was passed over by every single team in the National Hockey League, including these Blackhawks the first time around, prior to being selected no. 43 overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. After spending an additional year in junior, Saad broke into the lineup full time last season and made an impact. Despite being in just his second year, Saad looks like a seasoned vet of several years.
That may have not been more evident than it was on Monday night against the Minnesota Wild. The 2013 season saw the now 21-year-old forward gain some national attention as a deserved Calder Trophy finalist, but the Hawks' dominating 5-1 win over the Wild may have been his official coming out party.
Saad finished the game with a goal and an assist, with the latter likely providing us with one of the better highlights you'll see from anyone on the Blackhawks this year. We knew when he was coming up through the ranks, both with the Saginaw Spirit and his brief time with the Rockford Icehogs, that Saad had the blend of size and speed to make him a consistent offensive threat.
What we saw on Monday night is the skill that he actually possesses. On a team already loaded with top tier offensive talent, Saad is well on his way to becoming another established offensive threat with this team. His spin-o-rama assist to Patrick Kane for the easy tap in goal was a thing of beauty, and something we're more accustomed to seeing from Kane, an established superstar.
When Brandon Saad is on the ice, the Blackhawks have the puck. It's that simple. You don't need to look at any Corsi or Fenwick numbers to know that. Just for fun, though, his Corsi for the year so far is at +46. That's a mighty impressive total considering that less than half of his zone starts have come at the offensive end of the ice. He's already drawn four penalties this year as well in working to get to the net, a department in which he's specialized since breaking into the league.
On the season, Saad has posted eight points, including a trio of goals, and a plus-2 rating. As his time with the Hawks has increased, so has his role with the team. It's only a matter of time before Brandon Saad firmly establishes himself as a core piece of this team moving forward. He's becoming the type of player that gives the Hawks a chance to score on a give shift, and that's not even getting into his underrated two-way game.