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Saad: World Cup will serve me well

23-year-old forward wants to take on an even bigger role in Columbus

by Evan Sporer / For

TORONTO - Brandon Saad is the oldest member of Team North America. If he was born 27 days earlier, he'd have too much gunpowder to be a young gun.

"I'm definitely the old guy here," Saad said.

The elder statesman of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey's youngest principality is also the most decorated, having won two Stanley Cups as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. His 22 teammates have reached the NHL's pinnacle a combined zero times.

"A Stanley Cup is different (than the World Cup)," Saad said. "You're with the same group the whole year, and you go through playoffs, and it's a long grind the whole time."

Though Team North America was eliminated from the World Cup of Hockey by way of Russia's win over Finland on Thursday, Saad has a lot to take from his experience.

This was the first international senior tournament he's played in, even if he's not technically representing his country. He played in two World Junior tournaments, and spent two years in Ann Arbor as a member of the United States National Team Development Program.

Saad is hungry, and though his first international course, Team North America, contains ingredients that have drawn plenty of skeptics, Saad is confident in the cooks.

"When you initially hear about it about it, and you hear young guys, you think, 'They're not going to have a chance,' but once we got our group together, everyone can play here," Saad said.

But what Saad has his sights set on and wants to taste again is that championship feeling he experienced in Chicago.

Being in this kind of setting has thrown gasoline on that fire, and being here with five Blue Jackets teammates, two of whom in defensemen Seth Jones and Ryan Murray were his Team North America teammates, does nothing to temper his NHL expectations.

"When we got the call and all heard that we were all on the team it was pretty exciting," Saad said. "To know we're all here, and know the youth in Columbus, and how much skill is coming up. You see the AHL team just won last year, so it's all good things. We have a lot of young guys with a lot of talent coming in."

The young-old Saad is hoping to take this experience in Toronto, and continue to be become a bigger piece of the pie in Columbus, entering his second season as a Blue Jacket.

"The confidence was there, but coming in and now knowing the familiar faces, and the coaching staff, and the training staff, and the players, any time you're feeling more comfortable it leads to better play on the ice," Saad said. "It's a different feeling this year for sure, but it's definitely better."

In North America's locker room, Saad said he's served as a regulatory system of sorts, not letting his teammates get too high off of any accomplishment.

"We have a lot of talent, a lot of young guys, and any time we have success we might get a little full of ourselves," Saad said. "But that swagger is part of our game, so you have to keep an even keel, and showcase that."

There's a symmetry there between how he saw himself in Team North America's locker room, and what he hopes he can become in Columbus.

"Last year was a kind of feel-out year, and we had a tough year as a team," Saad said. "You want to help out any way you can. Whenever you get your name called for something you want t be ready to go. Going back there for the second year, it's something you want to lead by example."





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