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NHL

Saad passed over for Olympic spot

| Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, 9:36 p.m.

Penguins brass passed on Brandon Saad 30 months ago.

Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma, two key figures in Team USA's roster decisions for the 2014 Winter Olympics, passed on the Pittsburgh product again Wednesday.

Saad, a member of Chicago's 2013 Stanley Cup team, has been more productive in his second NHL campaign and had his fingers crossed when the team was announced following the Winter Classic.

“It's disappointing,” Saad told the Tribune-Review. “But it's a tough team to make. Hopefully, there will be other opportunities.”

Among American forwards, the 21-year-old Saad ranks third in even strength goals (13), eighth in points (30) and first in plus-minus (plus-16).

Saad has played on some of hockey's biggest stages. He played important roles on 2012 American squad at the World Junior Championship and led the U.S. to gold the previous year at the Under-18 World Hockey Championship.

He acknowledges that thoughts of the Olympics had crept into his mind during recent weeks.

“You know the announcement is coming,” he said. “You try not to spend all day thinking about it or focusing on it too much, but you know it's down to crunch time.”

Saad was selected by the Blackhawks in the second round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. At one point, Saad was considered by many a top-five pick, but his stock dropped during an injury-filled 2010-11 Ontario Hockey League season.

Since being drafted by Chicago, Saad has responded by scoring 24 goals and 57 points in his first 90 NHL regular season games.

He is on pace to score 27 goals this season, despite playing primarily on Chicago's third line, not taking advantage of playing with Blackhawks stars like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa.

Saad was quick to note, however, that he is familiar enough with Kane to display plenty of chemistry with the league's second-leading scorer.

“I definitely feel like I'm a better player now than I was last season,” Saad said. “I just feel a lot more comfortable, a lot more confident. The more you play in the NHL, the more you start to feel better about yourself and your game.”

Saad was invited to the Team USA Olympic Orientation Camp in August, but said he hadn't heard anything from the team's front office since.

Saad said if a rash of injuries hit the American players during the next month, he'd be willing to play if named an alternate.

“I'm not sure what they're thinking if injuries happen,” Saad said. “It's out of my control.”

Continuing his ascent as one of the NHL's finer young forwards is all Saad can control.

“I'm having a good year,” he said. “I feel good about what I've done.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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