Brandon Pirri, Jimmy Hayes, and Ryan Stanton were assigned to Rockford today, cutting the roster down to 23 players. The Blackhawks will travel to Los Angeles with 23 players tonight (Thursday) and will practice on Friday to gear up for Saturday’s season opener against the Kings.
All of this means that Brandon Saad will travel with the team and could play against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Saad, 20, had a very effective Junior career before jumping straight into the NHL last season after he made the team out of training camp as an 18-year-old fresh draftee of the 2011 class. Unfortunately, the Blackhawks quickly found out that he was not ready to make the jump into the NHL (0 points in 2 games) and he was sent back to the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit in order to refine his game.
In his final Junior season he proved himself by torching the league with 76 points in 44 games, earning himself a call-up during the Blackhawks Stanley Cup playoff run where he had 1 assist and a plus-2 rating in 2 games. Although he looked good, it was still unclear whether or not he could benefit with some time in the AHL, or if the Blackhawks were rushing him into the NHL too soon.
Fortunately for the Blackhawks, they did not need to worry about making a poor decision and the NHL endured a lockout which forced Saad to play in a star-studded AHL league. That time really gave players like Saad the added development that they otherwise wouldn’t have had.
He started the year off slow in Rockford, he was even scratched a few times, had some up and down moments, and regular rookie mistakes… but he eventually hit his stride and put up some monster games for the IceHogs over the last few weeks and earned his shot in training camp. Considering the fact that there were only a few days to determine whether or not Saad would make the team, I would consider this time to be a trial basis for Brandon. With the shortened training camp and literally no pre-season games to base his play off of, Quenneville may consider playing Saad over the next game or two in order to determine if he can help the team. If not, it’s back to Rockford for the blue chip prospect with hopes that he will make an impact down the line.
You aren’t in the clear yet Brandon, but this is an exciting opportunity that I hope he takes with confidence.