Pittsburgher Brandon Saad has a chance to do what Ryan Malone and RJ Umberger couldn’t—play in the NHL the same year he was drafted. The Chicago Blackhawks announced that Saad made the opening day roster and will suit up against the Dallas Stars on Friday.
The News gets better. Saad is not just going to start in the NHL as an 18-year-old. He will start in the NHL as an 18-year-old on the first line alongside the team’s top two goal scorers from last season.
Saad saw his stock drop considerably in the 2011 Draft and was figured to be a long shot to make Chicago’s opening day roster. Thanks to a brilliant preseason and a few early injuries to key Hawks, the second-rounder will play a game in the show long before many players drafted ahead of him.
Adam Kimelman (who wrote the article above) found this stat to put Saad’s feat in perspective:
“Saad will become the first player since Colorado Avalanche center Ryan O’Reilly in 2009 selected outside the first round to make an NHL opening-night roster in his draft year. Prior to O’Reilly, the feat hadn’t been accomplished since the 2003 draft/2003-04 season, when Patrice Bergeron (second round, Boston), Dan Fritsche (second round, Columbus), Lasse Kukkonen (fifth round, Chicago) and Esa Pirnes (sixth round, Los Angeles) each did it.”
It is likely that Saad will be returned to juniors after only nine games in the NHL. But for now, the accomplishment is quite a victory.