The Chicago Blackhawks will undoubtedly be bringing up a host of young skaters currently in Rockford to fill out their roster. One of those young prospects could be Chicago's 2011 second-round sensation, forward Brandon Saad.
'Hawks fans are eager to see how this exciting player can fit in to the team's plans when the season starts. The thing is, Saad may be better off staying in the minors for awhile.
Saad was a surprise in making the team out of camp last season. He lasted for the opening weekend before being sent down for a final season of juniors. He returned to Chicago in time to take part in two playoff games.
In between, Saad put up 76 points (34 goals, 42 assists) in 44 games with Saginaw in the OHL. He seemed to have a good shot at winning a spot on the 2012-13 Blackhawks team before training camp was postponed in September.
Instead, Saad went West to Rockford along with many of Chicago's top prospects on two-way deals. While players like Ben Smith and Brandon Pirri have flourished with the IceHogs, Saad has struggled to find his stroke consistently.
He didn't impress as Rockford opened its season and was soon sidelined with a leg injury. He missed seven games, returning to action November 9. In 10 games that month, Saad had eight points and showed the skills that drew our attention back in the fall of 2011.
Should Brandon Saad be on Chicago's roster when the NHL season begins?
The argument could be made that the injury was holding him back. However, in his last 15 games, Saad has managed just a pair of goals and four helpers.
I'll give Saad this much—the kid can switch gears and fly by some people like few of his Rockford teammates can. I just haven't seen as much from him as I would like to for a player some think could wind up as a top-six forward in Chicago this year.
You could argue that Saad has held back in Rockford, much like Nick Leddy has. I don't think a 20-year-old who hasn't proved a thing at the top level should feel like he can coast in the AHL, though.
Whether he is sandbagging or just a little overwhelmed at the jump in competition, Saad could use some more time where he is to polish his game. So far, that hasn't happened with the IceHogs.
Saad is certainly a top prospect, maybe the top prospect in the organization. He has the tools to play in the NHL and might do a lot of that this season.
However, I don't think he needs to be rushed. Saad finishing the season in Rockford, or at least the next few months, doesn't sound like too bad of a plan.