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Travis Sanheim had a solid rookie year for the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL, with five goals and 29 points in 67 games. After a bit of a slow start, he really came on about a third of the way through the season, as his play improved and he was given top four minutes and used on both powerplay and special teams units. Sanheim helped the Hitmen to a 103 point season (#3 seed in the Eastern conference, but tied in points with Edmonton for first). Unfortunately the Hitmen would be upset in the first round of the playoffs by the Kootenay Ice. Still it was enough to earn Sanheim an invitation to play with Team Canada at the 2014 U18 World Championships.
The Under 18s were a real coming out party for Sanheim, and his strong two-way play and six points in seven games helped Canada to a bronze medal at the games. Sanheim also led all defencemen in the tournament in assists and points, opening scouts eyes to the offensive potential that he possesses. Travis Sanheim was also named one of the top three players on the Canadian team. It wasn’t his first time playing on the world stage as Sanheim was part of Team Western Canada at the 2013 U17 Hockey Challenge.
Defense — shoots Left
Born Mar 29 1996 — Elkhorn, MAN
Height 6.03 — Weight 189 [191 cm/86 kg]
Travis Sanheim is an excellent skater. He has very good top end speed in both directions, strong acceleration, and an excellent first step. His pivots and edgework are extremely good for a man his size, and it gives him strong mobility in all directions. His balance is also good and while he isn’t much of a hitter, it gives him the ability to battle in front of the net, contain his man in the cycle, and win battles along the boards.
Defensively, Sanheim is very difficult to beat one-on-one. His excellent mobility and strong footwork keeps attacking forwards to the outside and makes him very hard to beat off the rush. Sanheim uses his long stick to cut down passing and shooting lanes and take away options when opponents are set up in the zone. He isn’t afraid to use his big frame to block shots and does so effectively.
Offensively, Sanheim is more likely to join the rush as a trailer than to lead it. However he does have the stickhandling and the skating skills to move the puck out of danger in his own zone. He makes a smart first pass and can be key to starting the transition game. He is also a very good passer from the blueline, making smart offensive reads and heads up plays to create scoring opportunities. He doesn’t have a huge shot from the point, its good but not great. However, Sanheim’s ability to get it through to the net effectively by walking the line and opening up shooting lanes, and also by utilizing a quick wrister at times to keep defences off balance really adds to its effectiveness. Sanheim became more confident as the season wore on, and began to pinch into plays more often and do more to create offence for the Hitmen. It was something that was really apparent with Team Canada.
Sanheim’s style is reminiscent of Jay Bouwmeester of the St. Louis Blues. This is a stylistic comparison and not a talent one though. In terms of potential, he could become a top four defenceman, with some use on a second powerplay unit, and as an important penalty killer and log significant minutes if he reaches his full potential.
Here are some highlights of Travis Sanheim in action.
Come back tomorrow to check out my #49 prospect for the 2014 NHL Draft.
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