Featuring Saginaw's Brandon Saad
He didn’t take the most orthodox route to the Ontario Hockey League, but his standout play with the Saginaw Spirit this season has vaulted winger Brandon Saad into a potential top-10 pick for the upcoming NHL Draft. The native of Gibsonia, Pennsylvania grew up playing minor hockey with the Pittsburgh Hornets, but felt the OHL would be more beneficial for his development towards achieving his primary goal of making the National Hockey League.
After being selected tenth overall as a late born 15-year old, Saad played one season with the Mahoning Valley Phantoms of the North American Hockey League, before moving to the U.S. National Development Team, where he recorded 26 points in 24 games. Saad was faced with the decision of staying home in America or joining the Saginaw Spirit, who had high hopes for the then-17 year old after drafting him one spot behind Tyler Seguin in the OHL Draft. Saad ultimately chose the OHL and had his sights on becoming a top-six forward with Saginaw this season.
Not only has he become a primary scorer for the team, Saad has helped Saginaw rise to the top of the OHL’s Western Conference this season, while notching 23 goals and 44 points in 43 games. Impressive performances at both the World Under-17 Challenge in 2009 and Under-18 Championships in 2010 bolstered Saad’s stock leading into his draft year. He was among the final cuts from the Team USA World Junior team that won the bronze medal in Buffalo, N.Y.
The 6-foot-2 winger is described as a truculent power forward that plays a responsible two way game and excels with the puck in tight areas. He is a strong skater with long strides and uses his speed to cut wide on opposing defenseman and drive hard to the net. He is also very physical and is known to rough up the opposition in an effort to get the puck to the net. Scouts are most impressed with his frame and ability to step right into the NHL next season. He is more physically developed than many of the other forwards in his draft class, which might prompt a team to take him over another player who may take several years to develop.
Saad has flown under the radar for most of his junior career because he doesn’t excel at any one part of his game, but is an overall solid player with very few deficiencies. “He’s the most well-rounded prospect I’ve coached, or even seen,” said Mahoning Phantoms head coach Bob Mainhardt to The Hockey News in March, 2009. “He pretty much can do it all: very dominant physically, does a very good job defensively, wins battles…and for a big man, he has unbelievable agility.”
Saad had a very strong start to the season with 18 points in the first 15 games, but his play as curtailed as of late due to an apparent lack of compete and level of effort. It hasn’t
appeared to have affected his position approaching the NHL draft, as he is currently ranked ninth overall by International Scouting Services, one spot behind Niagara IceDogs defenseman Dougie Hamilton.
Saad said he grew up idolizing the likes of Jaromir Jagr, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. While none of them are from the Middle East, he hopes that children idolize him for a completely different reason.
Saad intends on paving a path for players of Middle Eastern heritage and bring more awareness to his culture, so young children will look up to him as a role model on and off the ice. Saad acknowledges that being drafted to the NHL will go a long way towards achieving that.
Source: The Hockey News
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