June 30th, 2015. The hockey world dropped their collective jaws to the floor as Chicago, fresh off their Stanley Cup win, traded Brandon Saad to Columbus.
A casualty of the Blackhawks’ perennial cap crunch, he was quickly signed to a six year, $36 million deal, immediately becoming the highest paid player on the roster.
Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft, Saad had enjoyed a remarkable career until that point, winning World Juniors gold and two Stanley Cups before his 22nd birthday, with a natural gift for scoring that made him stand out even when sharing the ice with players like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
His arrival was heralded as Columbus making themselves a true contender. The reality, when the season began, was quite different, but Saad distinguished himself as the top goal scorer for the club with 31, and tying Cam Atkinson for the overall scoring lead with 53 points in 78 games despite the overall turbulence, and several small scoring droughts that were followed by multi-game point streaks.
Outlook for 2016-2017
Named to team North America for the World Cup of Hockey, Brandon Saad should shine next to Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon, and could quite possibly lead them into the finals if a few things break just right.
Once the NHL season starts, he will be expected to lead the Blue Jackets’ offense once again. There’s no reason not to expect another 30+ goal season, and hoping that with a stronger team around him, he can give fans in Columbus a glimpse of a brighter future.
Beyond that? Fans are going to expect something like this:
Maybe some of this:
And just perhaps a bit of this: