Like most good storybooks, Saad’s narrative slowly turned from gloomy to joyful. He began the 2013 season unsure whether he’d even make the team and was a healthy scratch in the season opener. His fortune changed due to the misfortune of a Daniel Carcillo injury, and Saad was tossed into the lineup the following game.
The rest of his season was mostly a montage of success. He secured a top-line spot, racked up points, was voted a Calder Trophy finalist, helped the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup and lived happily ever after.
Saad’s rookie season will forever be special to him, but he’s moved on from that storybook and will wait to dig it up until he’s done playing. He’s now writing a new tale for his second season, and he wants it to include more goals and assists and further consistency -- and another Stanley Cup wouldn’t be a bad ending again.
So far, Saad has put together a solid first chapter. He’s produced two goals and two assists through two games. Considering he didn’t tally his first point until the ninth game last season, he’s already ahead of his first season.
“He’s been real good,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “He looks like he’s got the puck more, and he’s a threat every time that he has it.”
The major difference Saad has noticed this season has been his comfort level. A season ago, he was at first worried whether he’d be headed back to the AHL and then was just trying to adjust to be an everyday NHL player. Now, he knows he’s in Chicago to stay and has a lay of the land.
“I was able to get a year under my belt last year,” Saad said. “I played pretty well, and the success we had as a team has made me much more confident and comfortable coming into this year. I think when you have those two things your game elevates.”
Saad’s game has experienced some natural elevation with him being older - he turns 21 on Oct. 27 -- and more accustomed to the NHL after having played 77 NHL career games. But he’s also entered the season looking to improve in specific areas, especially taking more shots and getting to the net more.
Saad’s concentration in those areas has paid off in the first two games. He’s taken nine shots, including six on goal, and created a number of quality chances by breaking for the net and allowing his teammates to locate him. During one 20-second span in the second period against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, Saad just missed two goals in such manner.
“Those were two great passes from [Ben Smith] and [Andrew Shaw] there,” Saad said of the scoring opportunities. “That’s something I’m looking to do. Hopefully, they go in next time. Those chances I want to have them every game. The goals are going to come.”
Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane knows something about goals and excelling at an early age. From what Kane has seen from Saad this season, Kane is confident Saad is gearing up for a stellar season.
“He’s played great, especially [against the Lightning,]” Kane said. “He seemed to make a lot of great plays and had some chances, powerful as ever.
“I think that’s a guy that can really take a step forward this year and play even better than he did last year. I know he had a great year last year as a rookie, but he’s a great player. You’re going to see some great things out of him in the future.”
Someday there just might be a collection of Saad's storybook seasons.