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Brandon Saad: The evolution of a Blackhawks playoff hero

We've all seen Brandon Saad develop into a star right before our very eyes. This is especially true when it comes to this very postseason.

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No matter the success that an individual or a team can attain in a single postseason, there are going to be looming narratives from the media that detract from what that team is doing. Such is the case with the Chicago Blackhawks, who find themselves in a third Stanley Cup Final in six years. Despite that success, in addition to the simple fact that we're a best-of-three from crowning a Stanley Cup Champion, there has been an inordinate amount of discussion related to the future of Brandon Saad.

Before we start dissecting how incredible a talent the 22-year-old forward is, let's make one thing clear: Brandon Saad is not going anywhere. There are players that will be gone as a result of the impending salary cap crunch. Patrick Sharp is probably gone. Bryan Bickell is almost certainly gone. Others will be departing, whether through free agency or trade. Brandon Saad will not be among them. The Blackhawks realize what they have in him, and one would imagine that Stan Bowman will get him locked up at the earliest possible convenience.

His growth and development over the last few seasons has been incredibly evident. Saad has not only proven to be a steal, as the 43rd overall pick back in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, but he's clearly established himself as one of the league's top power forwards. This has not been more evident in any setting than it has been in the postseason. Now in his third real playoff run (having appeared in a pair of games in 2011-12) with the Blackhawks, Saad continues to demonstrate that improvement.

That marked improvement has manifested itself in Saad's ability to put goals up on the board, as well as his growth in the defensive game. The fact that so many compare his game to that of Marian Hossa isn't a coincidence.

Saad's goal totals in each of his three postseason appearances have increased from just one in the 2013 playoffs, to six across 18 games last season, and up to eight in the 21 games in which he's appeared thus far in the 2015 postseason. It's not only the goal total itself, though, that is impressive. It's the way in which he's scored, particularly in this postseason, that has helped to illustrate the type of player that Brandon Saad has become.

He can kill you with speed or just brute strength, which is what makes him such a large threat. Against the Anaheim Ducks, we saw him flash that absurd speed in his tiebreaking goal halfway through the second period of Game 6. In Game 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday, we saw the strength aspect. Saad took the puck off the faceoff and skated right through the slot and backhanded it in for the goal that would eventually turn out to be the game-winner. It's a power move that we've seen so much from Saad throughout the season, as he lowers that shoulder and works his way past opposing defensemen, a la Hossa.

But, again, putting the puck in the net isn't the only way we've seen Brandon Saad contribute this postseason. He's logged the second highest amount of minutes on the penalty kill per game, behind only Marcus Kruger. He's so defensively aware, as illustrated by his 15 takeaways, the seventh most of anyone in the playoffs, and his 10 blocked shots, the fourth most on the team. One of those blocks was essential in helping the Hawks preserve the win and even the series at two against Tampa Bay.

The evolution of Brandon Saad is nothing new to those that have followed the Chicago Blackhawks in the last few seasons. He's flashed that brilliance with regularity and has cemented himself as a part of what will be the new core for the Blackhawks moving forward. On a national stage, though, Saad has turned it up, with four goals in his last six games and five in his last eight. He can beat you in any number of ways, going from zero to 60 in a matter of seconds (metaphorically, of course) or dropping that shoulder and physically working his way to the net. Not only that, he's a contributor in all phases, particularly as a defensive player from the forward position.

As such, Brandon Saad has not only demonstrated his importance to the Blackhawks, but he's helped to show exactly why he isn't going anywhere anytime soon. He's an essential part of this team, and the Blackhawks' front office will make any moves necessary in order to preserve that fact. At no point though, has Saad made himself into a more obvious budding star, though, than right here in the playoffs.

Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.