Brought over from the Blackhawks a couple of seasons ago to help instill a winning attitude in the Blue Jackets locker room while taking his production to another level in a larger role, Saad ably accomplished the former but failed to deliver the latter, as he scored exactly 53 points in each of his two campaigns with Columbus. The skilled, physical winger still has room to grow, as he won't turn 25 until October, but his inconsistent compete level landed him in coach John Tortorella’s doghouse more than once last year and he may simply be a strong complementary player rather than a foundation piece. Sent back to Chicago in the offseason in the deal for Artemi Panarin, Saad could see significant minutes alongside Jonathan Toews, giving him his best chance yet at a true breakout.
The offseason trade for Saad was supposed to put the Blue Jackets over the top and make them a perennial playoff contender, but instead the franchise took a massive step backwards last year. You can't pin the blame for that on Saad, however. The former Blackhawk led the team with 31 goals (his first 30-goal season) and a career-high 59 points while playing his typical aggressive, two-way game. Surprisingly, he didn't play a big role on the power play for Columbus, seeing less time per game with the man advantage than he did in any season with Chicago, but the 23-year-old winger should reverse that trend this season as he continues to mature. The team's lack of depth up the middle could limit Saad's production, though, as he's currently set to skate on a line with 2013 first-round pick Alexander Wennberg, who has yet to establish himself as an offensive threat in the NHL. While Wennberg could blossom in that role, the more likely result for Saad is another productive season that doesn't really do justice to his true upside.
The Jackets had to give up a lot, but even so, they positively stole Saad from the Blackhawks this offseason and promptly signed him to a six-year contract. Still just 22 years old, the Pittsburgh native is one of the league's most exciting young talents, he's held the Stanley Cup, and he's now going to join a pair of stars in Ryan Johansen and Nick Foligno on what should be an explosive top line for the Blue Jackets. Take Saad's elite speed and finishing ability and combine it with what projects to be an increase in minutes, and you've got a strong candidate for a fully fledged bust-out season. Don't miss out.
Saad showed some flashes of potential in his first full season in the NHL, finishing sixth on the Blackhawks in scoring with 47 points. It represented a sizable step forward for Saad, who doubled his output in goals from 10 to 19. Saad will only turn 22 when the season starts and should only see his numbers climb from here, especially as he continues to improve upon his obvious chemistry with Patrick Kane. Barring an injury, Saad will continue to rise up the list of forwards in the league. A point total in the mid-to-high 50s aren't out of the question this season.
Saad made the 2013 NHL All-Rookie squad and was a Calder Trophy nominee after he scored 10 goals and added 17 assists in 46 games last season. This output is just the tip of the iceberg, but he needs to develop more consistency to fulfill his potential as a power forward. He'll be a top-nine guy with the Hawks this season and could see time on the second line, too. But beware the sophomore slump. It doesn't happen to everyone, but when it does, it ruins fantasy seasons.
Saad surprised last season by making the team out of camp ... especially since he was just 18 years old. His time with the big club only lasted two games, but he clearly made an impression -- the Hawks called him up for their postseason and he dressed for two playoff games after Marian Hossa went down with a concussion. In between the two stints with the Hawks, the 6-1, 208 lb left winger utterly dominated junior hockey (76 points in 44 games). It would not be a surprise this time if he starts the 2012-13 season with Chicago and sticks for the season. He'll have his ups and downs, but 35 points are definitely possible.
The Blackhawks' second-round draft choice in June's NHL Draft will be looking to prove the critics wrong this season that he should have been picked in the first round.