Brandon Saigeon Rising
Brandon Saigeon is carving himself out a nice little redemption story on and off the ice. Expectations were very high for the young captain of the Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs when he was selected 4th in the 2014 OHL Priority Selection by the Belleville Bulls. He had a solid rookie season in Belleville, and was predicted by some observers to go as high as the first round in the 2016 NHL Draft. Luck wasn’t on the young Grimsby native’s side, as his offensive skills weren’t clicking to begin his draft year, and he was sidelined in the second half by a broken collar bone. Follow that up with some off season ankle issues, and things weren’t looking good for the hometown hero.
Brandon Saigeon entered the 2016 OHL season under a new head coach who went into training camp with a new set of eyes and opinions on players. Coach John Gruden had some unique perspectives to analyze his new roster, the verbal from Associate Coach Troy Smith and GM Steve Staios, along with what he was seeing in practice. Saigeon had a successful summer leading up to the 2016 season. He played well in the Maple Leafs development camp, and most importantly got healthy. Even with the offseason boost, things started slowly.
Coach Gruden isn’t the type of coach to sugar coat his take on the players on his roster. When asked about Saigeon’s improved play in the second half of the 2016-17 season, he explained that Saigeon needed a reset.
“We put him on the fourth line, we healthy scratched him, but he put in all the work. He listened, and he’s playing really good hockey on both sides. He realized what he was doing in the past wasn’t working. Worrying so much, focusing so much on the point side of it, and not taking care of the defensive side. He’s understanding what it takes to have success at this level defensively”. – John Gruden
Saigeon saw the hard work pay off following the Christmas Break. For two straight seasons, Bulldogs fans had the opportunity to watch undrafted 18 year old players play to their potential. In 2015-16, Matt Luff exploded offensively following the veteran exodus at the 2016 Trade Deadline. Saigeon had a similar boom offensively, along with a much larger role on the team in a top six role at centre.
Matt Luff’s splits
Brandon Saigeon’s splits
Matt Luff doubled his point totals, while Saigeon only doubled his goals. The important factor is how much Gruden began to trust Saigeon, which is evident in the faceoff’s taken category. Saigeon directly benefited from the Adam Laishram trade, and the chemistry he developed with Will Bitten. Bulldogs fans are hoping that they will be able to pick up where they left off in March.
Luff was able to translate his season success into an opportunity to shine with the LA Kings, and surprised a lot of onlookers by earning a 3 year Entry Level Contract. Saigeon is currently enjoying his opportunity to do the very same thing right now with the Edmonton Oilers. Edmonton is currently enjoying a roster renaissance after a decade of darkness.
As strong as their roster looks at the professional level, their prospect system is a bit anemic at centre currently. Considering that Edmonton will need to be trading picks and prospects in the next 2 years in order to be successful at the next two trade deadlines, Saigeon finds himself in the perfect situation to impress Edmonton’s management. Undrafted forward Brandon Christoffer is a recent example of a free agent forward who impressed Edmonton at the Penticton Young Stars Classic who earned an ELC from the Oilers.
The opportunity is there for Saigeon, he just needs to take it.