You’ve surely heard it from your local Blackhawks fan by now, but losing Brandon Saad emotionally stings for everyone involved. How much does losing Saad hurt the Blackhawks on the ice? Quite a bit, but the bigger picture comes in the analysis of the trade that was basically hedging against an offer sheet from many potential suitors.
Brandon Saad, Michael Paliotta, and center Alex Broadhurst
Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Jeremy Morin, Corey Tropp, and a fourth round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft
Stan Bowman, while making the hard and smart move, managed to come out with the fulcrum of this deal. He left with 20-year-old Marko Dano, the kid who dazzles and is going to grow into an unbelievable player, though he’s not there yet.
Consider his 2014-15 campaign at the NHL level alone. Dano recorded eight goals and 21 points in 35 games played. He’s traditionally a bit of a setup man, so the comparisons to Saad are basically limited to the bland, “young and good.” Going beyond the point totals, Dano also did pretty well in terms of shot generation and suppression, as displayed on these differential charts from War On Ice:
To further illustrate the effectiveness of Dano’s play in the offensive zone, this chart shows how effective the team’s offense is with and without him on the ice:
Keep in mind Dano didn’t play a good chunk of the season, so the numbers are skewed a tad—sample size.
It’s all remarkable for a player who is barely 20 and has only been in 35 games of competition. Dano was a 54.13 CF% at 5v5 this year at the NHL level. There was no time in the waiting room for his breakout, because he’s already been putting up phenomenal numbers in every category, showing prowess on defense and offense.
The best part about him joining the Blackhawks, however, is Dano’s versatility. He’s crafty with the puck and can really skate. For every player you hear about that “can really skate,” the former 27th-overall pick can probably can mow all of them down in a heartbeat.
With Dano, smarts exist in all three zones with a knack for using coverage in his own end to his advantage. He has the ability to spot the play breaking down and immediately turn it into a breakout or exit for his team should the opportunity present itself. When he’s in the offensive zone, his puck skills are good enough where he’ll be able to play a skill game in transition or keep the puck alive behind the net or in a cycle.
“He’s an exciting player,” Bowman told Brian Hedger at NHL.com. “He came on to the scene with Columbus last year with maybe not a lot of fanfare, but I think he impressed people. He certainly impressed our scouts with his all-around game.”
Dano has spent time in the KHL and also has represented Slovakia at the IIHF’s World Championship (2013 and 2015) and World Junior Championship (2012-2014). It wasn’t until his call-up from the Springfield Falcons that he displayed what he’s capable of.
At the present moment, the turning point of this trade rests on the shoulders of a young, undersized forward who adds a dash of optimism to the seared hearts of all in Chicago. Albeit painfully, this deal suits the Blackhawks for the 2015 offseason, filling a hole at center in Artem Anisimov and also returning some cheap, young bodies.
The deal does hinge on Dano, and it will be interesting to see hockey’s nature vs. nurture debate play out on both sides of this deal between Saad and Dano.