Thursday, April 09, 2009

Spirit prospect named NAHL's top rookie

The North American Hockey League announced today that Mahoning Valley Phantoms forward Brandon Saad has been named Rookie of the Year.

Saad, from Gibsonia, Pa., totaled 29 goals among 47 points in 47 regular-season games with the Phantoms. He was also a team-best plus-21.

“Brandon is the most well-rounded prospect I’ve coached, or even seen,” said Phantoms head coach Bob Mainhardt. “He pretty much can do it all. He’s very dominant physically, does a very good job defensively, wins battles, and, for a big man (6-foot-2, 195 pounds), has unbelievable agility.”

Saad, 16, was also a member of the U.S. National Under-17 Team that earned a bronze medal at the 2009 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge held in Port Alberni, British Columbia, in December-January. He was named to the tournament’s all-star team after finishing tied for the team lead in scoring (four goals, five assists).

“He’s very mature for a young man,” Mainhardt added. “He’s really dealt with all the attention he’s gotten very well. He’s just a part of the team. He’s a funny, regular 16-year-old. He’s a little more mature, but you can see the kid in him sometimes. He just loves playing the game and he fits in well. His teammates love him.”

Saad, a three-time winner of the Sherwood/NAHL North Division Player of the Week Award, was also named to the NAHL All-Rookie Team.

“Because of his size and physical stature, we joke that we need to check his birth certificate because he’s so young,” said Mainhardt. “He’s the youngest player on our team, but he looks like one of the older guys and he carries himself that way, too.”

The Ontario Hockey League's Saginaw Spirit drafted Saad in the first round of last May's priority selection out of the Pittsburgh Hornets organization.

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