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Brandon Saad's impressive two-way play this season is making it harder to figure out why so many teams passed on him in the first round of the 2011 NHL Draft. Saad fell to pick No. 43 in the second round, and he has proven to be one of Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman's finest draft choices.
The 20-year-old American has scored four goals with five assists and a plus-6 rating through 23 games this season.
It may be too late for Saad to enter the Calder Trophy race, but he's well on his way to becoming the NHL's best rookie for the month of March. He has seven points (two goals, five assists) in his last eight games, which is also earning him more ice time, including some shifts on the top line alongside captain Jonathan Toews.
After Tuesday's victory over the Minnesota Wild, Toews gave an interesting description of his teammate (via Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times):
Saad had a slow start to the season with zero points in his first eight games, but since then, he has tallied nine points in his last 15 games.
Even though he wasn't scoring a lot early in the year, he was battling hard in front of the net, playing well defensively and doing the little things that coaches expect from young players.
In addition to his rapidly-improving offensive skills, Saad has enough size and strength (6'1" and 202 pounds) needed to be one of the league's premier power forwards in a few years.