Brandon Saad

Brandon Saad signs entry-level deal with Chicago, gets to start on first line

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Chicago’s Brandon Saad has had a training camp to remember in Chicago. We’ve talked about him a lot here and about how he’s the 2011 second round pick is making the most of his opportunity to break through with the Blackhawks. Now he’s got a contract after signing his three-year, entry-level deal with Chicago.

Saad won’t be starting his season making time on the third or fourth line, however, as he’s getting to make his debut on the top line alongside Patrick Sharp and captain Jonathan Toews.

Well that shouldn’t be nerve-racking at all for the 18 year-old fresh out of junior hockey. For what it’s worth, everyone in Chicago is talking big about him, including GM Stan Bowman, as’s Tracey Myers shares.

“The competition has gone up each time and he’s responded to the challenge. He’s earned a spot,” Bowman said in announcing Saad’s deal. “He’s excited to go and that’s a good story for us. We put him in a position to succeed and he seized it.”

Saad has earned a huge opportunity thanks to both his play and injuries for Chicago in camp. Viktor Stalberg was originally slated to be the guy to play alongside Toews and Sharp, but with Stalberg battling back from an injury in camp, the job is Saad’s to make sure Chicago gets off to a solid start.

Whether Saad gets more than the nine game audition will be up to the Blackhawks, but for now it’s all on him to make it so that it’s impossible for Chicago to send him back to Saginaw in the OHL or not. He’s getting a huge stage to start off on and when the Hawks open against the Dallas Stars on Friday night, all eyes will be on him to see how he embraces life in the pros as the guy with first round talent that everyone passed on in the draft.

After healthy scratch, Severson vows to play ‘next 80 games’

Jimmy Hayes, Damon Severson
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Damon Severson was a healthy scratch on Saturday.

It’s the last game he wants to miss this season.

“I had a good chat with a few people and just pretty much said, ‘I want to be in the next 80 games,’” Severson said, per The Record. “I sat out my game and that’s all I want to be out for for the year.”

Severson is one of the Devils’ most important young players. But this is also the 21-year-old defenseman’s sophomore season, and that’s when slumps can occur.

Hence, the early message he was sent by the coaching staff.

Severson is expected to be back in the lineup tonight when New Jersey hosts Nashville.

“He doesn’t have to be perfect,” coach John Hynes told reporters. “We’d just like to see him have a high compete level. We know he’s ready to go. We had a couple of good meetings with him. He’s in a good spot mentally. I know he’s ready to roll.”

Virtanen to make NHL debut tonight versus Kings

Jake Virtanen
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Jake Virtanen, the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft, will make his NHL debut tonight when his Canucks meet the Kings in Los Angeles.

The 19-year-old winger was a healthy scratch for Vancouver’s first three games of the regular season. He had two goals and two assists in six preseason games.

“I can’t wait,” he told reporters. “My energy is high. I want to get a couple of hits on my first shift.”

Big and physical with goal-scoring ability, the consensus is that Virtanen will remain in the NHL and not be returned to junior after he’s played nine games. That consensus could always change based on his play, of course.

The Canucks — who won last night in Anaheim — did not have a full skate this morning, so it’s unclear who will come out of the lineup. The best guess is rookie Jared McCann, who’s been playing third-line center.

If McCann does come out, the Canucks could move Brandon Sutter to third-line center and Virtanen could take Sutter’s spot on the first line with the Sedin twins. Or, there could be more extensive line juggling.