ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Brandon Saad couldn't have imagined this when he started the season in the Staples Center press box watching Daniel Carcillo skate on left wing with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.
But when Carcillo hurt his knee in the opener against Los Angeles, Saad slid into that role and never looked back.
On Monday he was named one of the three finalists for the Calder Trophy that goes annually to the NHL's top rookie.
"It's always nice to have you name mentioned and be up for an award like that," Saad said. "I just thought about making the team this year, to be honest. It's nice to be recognized. There are a lot of great rookies this year who had good seasons."
Saad was joined in the top three by Montreal forward Brendan Gallagher and Florida forward Jonathan Huberdeau. The award winner will be announced during the Stanley Cup Finals.
The 20-year-old Saad had 27 points on 10 goals and 17 assists in 46 games playing on the first line with Toews and Hossa.
He led all rookies in plus-minus (plus-17), ranked third in assists and was fifth in points. He shared fifth in goals.
"He's had a real nice year for us," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I think he came into the NHL maybe under the radar when he started the season, but the appreciation to what he contributed to our team game start to finish was very strong.
"His consistency in absorbing more responsibility as the season went on, being on special teams and getting critical minutes and the confidence we used him was based on how well he played. This has been a real good start to his career."
It's the third time in the last six years that a member of the Hawks has been nominated for the Calder. Toews and Patrick Kane were finalists in 2007-08 and Kris Versteeg in 2008-09.
Previous Hawks to win the Calder Trophy were Mike Karakas (1935-36), Cully Dahlstrom (1937-38), Ed Litzenberger (1954-55), Bill Hay (1959-60), Tony Esposito (1969-70), Steve Larmer (1982-83), Ed Belfour (1990-91) and Kane (2007-08).
"I'm happy for him," Kane said. "He had a great year and deserves it so hopefully he'll come away with the trophy. It would be nice to have another Blackhawk win that. Congrats to him and props to him. He came in and played very well. He's very deserving of the honor."
Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin was snubbed by media voters despite averaging 23:12 of ice time per game with 11 points.
"I don't have time to focus on that; I'm focused on the playoffs right now," Brodin said. "They're good players, the three guys there."
Minnesota coach Mike Yeo took the news harder than his player.
"I'm disappointed," Yeo said. "Congratulations to the other players, they're great players, and I mean this with the greatest respect to them: I've coached this guy all year and we're here battling in the playoffs, and I don't we would be if he's not on our team. I mean, this kid is a very, very good hockey player."