Blackhawks prospect Ross familiar with Saad's success story
It seems as if everyone at Blackhawks prospects camp wants to be the next Brandon Saad, the rookie who spent most of last season on a line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa and wound up winning the Stanley Cup.
But only Garret Ross knows what it's really like to follow Saad.
Ross and Saad were teammates for two seasons with Saginaw in the Ontario Hockey League and became good friends.
While Saad was making his way in Chicago last season, Ross was following quite well in his pal's footsteps at Saginaw, putting up 44 goals and 46 assists. Saad had scored 34 goals in his final season with Saginaw in 2011-12.
"I couldn't be more happy for the kid," said Ross, who at 21 is a year younger than Saad. "He accomplished every hockey player's dream at the age of 20, winning the Stanley Cup. It's good to see a good buddy like that be rewarded.
"We played together for two years and played on the same line a little bit here and there, so we got to know each other pretty well over the years.
"I talked to him a few times during the season, but once it got down into the playoffs I kind of figured he was pretty busy and wanted to keep him focused on winning the Cup."
Ross is a 6-foot, 182-pound left wing who was drafted in the fourth round by the Hawks in 2012. His 90 points left him seventh in the OHL in scoring, and he was a plus-31.
"Obviously, I've got a pretty strong lineup to crack, but that's just more motivation to work harder and get in there," said Ross, who had seasons of 25, 6 and 7 goals at Saginaw before breaking out last season.
"I think I just got more comfortable and found the serious strengths of my game and I just started using it more and the puck started going in the net for me more," he said. "I can't say there was anything specific. I just continued playing my game and things just went the right way for me."
Ross knows he faces long odds of making the Hawks next season, but he will gladly go to Rockford if it comes to that.
"It's kind of out of my hands," Ross said. "The only thing I can do is come out and work hard and show the organization what I'm made of, and if they see something in me that they want me to start me up with the big program then that would be good obviously. But if not then it's just another year to work at it.
"Obviously, the main goal is to be with the Hawks, but if not, Rockford is looking like the place."
Ross played in two games at Rockford at the end of last season.
"It was good to get up there and see what the pro atmosphere is like," he said. "I'm glad I got a couple games in and got the feel for things."
A native of Dearborn Heights, Mich., Ross was left in a tough spot during the memorable playoff series between the Hawks and the Red Wings in the Western Conference semifinals.
He grew up a Wings fan, but he was rooting for the team that drafted him.
"It was funny, all my buddies, when the Hawks went down 3-1 in the series, all my buddies were like, 'What's happening to your Hawks there?'" Ross said. "I was just like, 'I don't know, they won 25 straight, so I don't think three or four in a row should be too tough.'
"I just waited until the end there. It was good, once they came back in Game 7, to give it back to my buddies a little bit."
Ross hasn't found it difficult to give up his allegiance to the Red Wings.
"The Hawks saw something in me that they really liked, and I couldn't be happier to be with this organization," Ross said. "So I'm a Hawks fan now."