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Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25 for 2017: Kneel before Brandon Saad at No. 1

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The two-time Stanley Cup champions takes the top spot.

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Three Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Brandon Saad is back in Chicago after spending two seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Saad played a key role on the top line in Chicago’s 2013 and 2015 Stanley Cup championship runs. Chicago traded Saad to Columbus in the 2015 offseason for salary cap room where he continued to thrive. After a first-round playoff sweep, Chicago general manager Stan Bowman decided to shake up the roster and bring back Saad along with goaltender Anton Forsberg in exchange for Russian winger Artemi Panarin and prospect Tyler Motte.

Key Info

Position: Forward
Birth date: October 27, 1992
Acquired via: 2011 NHL draft, second round (43rd overall)
Most recent stop: Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL)
Size: 6’1, 206 pounds
Contract: 4 years, $6 million salary cap hit

Breakdown

Saad spent his first three-plus seasons with the Blackhawks and flourished alongside Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. During his time in Chicago, Saad totaled 52 goals and 74 assists in 208 games. Saad appeared in 67 Stanley Cup playoff games, including all 23 contests in each Stanley Cup runs, in his first stint in Chicago.

Saad’s offense didn’t slip when he went to Columbus as he posted career highs in goals (31) and points (53). His goal total was also a team-high in 78 games. Saad continued to display his consistency with a second-straight 53-point season. The 24 year olds’ points and 24 goals ranked third on the Blue Jackets.

Columbus didn’t make the playoffs in Saad’s first season with them, but they were able to turn things around to make the postseason in 2017. The Blue Jackets only lasted five games in the first round against eventual champion Pittsburgh. Saad tallied a goal and two assists.

What’s next in 2017-18?

Saad returns to the top line alongside Jonathan Toews, but this time he’ll have different winger on the opposite side. Marian Hossa was the anchor on the right side in Saad’s first stint, but the future Hall of Famer will this next season as he receives treatment for a progressive skin disorder. Taking his place will be Richard Panik, who reached the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career last season.

Saad should provide a more complete two-way game compared to Artemi Panarin. The 6-foot-1, 206-pounder also will help on the power play with his left-handed shot, which is something the Hawks missed in Saad’s absence.