forward Brandon Saad
, the second player taken outside of the first round to play in the NHL in his draft year since the 2003-04 season, was returned to his junior team Wednesday.
Saad, a 2011 second-round pick (No. 43), started the season at left wing on the Blackhawks' top line, along with Jonathan Toews
and Patrick Sharp
. He also saw time on the second line with Patrick Kane
and Marian Hossa
In the season opener Friday in Dallas, he had two shots in 13:05 of ice time. In Saturday's re-match, he had one shot in 14:57 of ice time.
"He's done some impressive things so far," Kane told the Chicago Sun-Times prior to Wednesday's announcement. "He had a great preseason and played well in the intrasquad games. I think that as time goes a long in the regular season, things get a bit tougher and I'm sure he'll realize that, but so far he hasn't made any mistakes."
Colorado's Ryan O'Reilly
, a third-round pick in 2009, is the only other non-first round pick, to play in his draft year in the last seven seasons.
The Hawks had nine games to decide whether to keep Saad or return him to his junior team, the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League. He can't be recalled this season unless it's under an emergency situation.
Saad had 27 goals and 28 assists in 59 games with Saginaw last season, and the native of Gibsonia, Pa., now could be a key cog for the U.S. team at the 2012 World Junior Championship.
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK