It took all but 2 games at the Collegiate level for Jake Sanderson to silence the critics
Jake Sanderson had a standout performance on Friday night with 1 goal, 1 assist (primary) and 4 shots on goal, for the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks. Aside from the points that caught the attention of the general audience, it’s the details of Sanderson’s game that I’ve been even more impressed with. With flawless gap control, elite hockey IQ, a smooth, capable stride and an excellent stick, it’s absolutely no surprise that the Senators selected Sanderson in front of the talent that remained at 5th overall this past October.
As we all know from watching Mark Stone develop into an elite player, sometimes it’s the subtleties of one’s game that makes that player so effective. With Sanderson, although it’s early, the above is true. He may not produce 60 points from the blueline in a single season of his entire career but it’s the small, effective things he does that will gain the attention and appreciation of Sens fans. Heck, he’s certainly gained the attention of UND head coach Brad Berry, here’s what Berry had to say about his new blueliner.
“It’s his quickness, getting to pucks. He doesn’t look like a freshman. His quickness and his feet and then you combine his competitiveness. Whatever system we’re doing, even a small area game, he’s always the first one on the puck. You’re all going to be pleasantly surprised when you talk about offensive game. A lot of the game offensively is puck possession and he has the puck all the time. He has an outstanding shot with a knack for getting pucks to the net. I think his defensive game is so outstanding that people want to say he’s a defensive guy but to me he’s an all round guy.”
Again, Ottawa didn’t draft Sanderson so that he can put Thomas Chabot to shame offensively. Sanderson was selected for his supreme defensive skill combined with his transition game offensively. Honestly, if you ask me, would I rather have the defenseman who’s going to put up 60 points but have glaring holes in his defensive game versus a defenseman who puts up 35-40 points with a flawless defensive game, give me option B. Sanderson pays particular attention to the small details of the game and it can be highlighted if you care to pay attention to this stuff as a fan. it’s invaluable to a team’s success and sometimes goes unnoticed.
During this play, Sanderson breaks up a quality scoring chance, bailing out his d partner who was attempting to change at an inopportune time, leading to a 2on1 rush. Again, it’s subtle but his positioning is what makes this dive block so effective. Keep in mind, this particular play was at the tail end of a lengthy shift.
On this play, Sanderson takes another quality chance away by implementing a perfectly demonstrated crouch block. Again, if you’re looking for technicalities this is exactly the right play with perfect spacing and timing. He limits the chances of injury by exposing the most protected part of his body while keeping his chin up and stick actively in the play. This is a play you rarely see in a live game situation and goes to show just how technical his game truly is. How many times do we see players bailout of that block or stay on their feet, theoretically giving the puck more space to travel through the block?
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Sanderson can’t play offence though
If the defensive game doesn’t convince you that Jake Sanderson overcomes his lack of offence by his flawless technique defensively, maybe the fact that he can produce offensively will. Even early in the game Friday night, before producing anything, Sanderson was showing me enough to warrant more offensive opportunities. his breakouts, puck skills and skating was on full display. Also noteworthy, it’s super fun to be live-tweeting a game that I care about once again.
Brad Berry answers my prayers and a short time later…
Sanderson with an absolute bomb of a one-timer from the right circle beats the goaltender upstairs and Sanderson follows it up with an electric celebration. The powerplay marker will go down as his very first collegiate level goal. He was not done there.
This is easily the play of the game. Sanderson again, at the tail end of his shift, allows his teammates to change all the while eluding 4 fresh-legged defenders, winning the 1on4 battle on the boards and feeding the only open teammate within 100 yards of the play. Incredible stuff here from the 18-year-old freshman.
Turning the tables
With the full attention of Sens fans at the moment, Sanderson may have turned the tables on the doubters faster than you can say Brady Tkachuk. The 5th overall pick quite frankly looks like the real deal and he’s only scratching the surface. Pierre Dorion and Trent Mann got it right once again on the draft floor and time will only solidify their choice. With the World Junior Championships just weeks away now, Sanderson will play a major role for the USA squad and Sens fans will be watching closely as Sanderson turns the doubters into believers.