Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2020 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. Today we look at Jake Sanderson.
Jake Sanderson, the son of former NHLer Geoff Sanderson, is our top prospect from this year’s US National Team Development Program. Things are not quite as good for the USNTDP as they were last season when a historic crop came from the team. That said, Sanderson is still an outstanding prospect who would not have looked out of place amongst last year’s group. The University of North Dakota commit, was the Under-18 Team Captain. He put up seven goals and 22 assists for 29 points in 47 games this season. Sanderson was also named Player of the Game in the All-American Top Prospects Game, putting up two assists.
Last year he put up four goals and 20 assists for 24 points in 44 games for the U-17 team. He also served as the team captain. At last year’s Under-17 World Hockey Challenge, Sanderson put up one assist in five tournament games. Previously Sanderson attended Edge Hockey Prep School in Calgary. He also played much of his minor hockey in Alberta.
Jake Sanderson Scouting Report
Defence — shoots Left
Born July 8th, 2002 — Whitefish, Montana
Height 6’2″ — Weight 185 lbs [188 cm/84 kg]
Sanderson plays a strong two-way game that is based upon his excellent skating ability. He moves well in both directions, with very good speed and excellent acceleration. Sanderson can join the rush or pinch at the blue line and still get back defensively. He also has very good edgework and agility. This allows him to cover a lot of ice and get into good positions. His smooth pivots allow Sanderson to quickly transition from offence to defence and vice-versa. He is also strong on his skates. Sanderson is able to avoid forecheckers and is tough to knock off the puck. He is also able to win battles along the boards and clear the front of the net. As he matures and adds muscle to his frame, this aspect of his game should improve even more.
Sanderson can help produce at the offensive end of the ice. His strong skating and puckhandling allow him to move the puck out of his zone and up the ice. He can also carry the puck through the neutral zone but is more likely to make a strong first pass to a forward rushing up the ice. Sanderson can join the rush as a trailer and has good instincts of when to take advantage of such opportunities. When he does rush the puck up the ice, he makes good decisions and can pass the puck to a teammate to set up a scoring chance.
Sanderson shows good vision and passing skills and can quarterback the play from the point. Sanderson has a decent point shot, but it is not a howitzer. He understands how to keep it low and to get it on the net. Sanderson uses his agility to walk the line and create shooting and passing lanes. He is especially adept at faking a slap shot and quickly changing directions to make a slap pass to a teammate. He likes to sneak down from the point and can utilize an accurate wrist shot with a good release from that area. Sanderson also moves well in the offensive zone with the puck on his stick, changing the angle of attack and opening up additional options to set up a teammate for a scoring chance.
Sanderson’s biggest strength comes in his own end. His strong skating ability makes him very difficult to beat off the rush. Good gap control and strong defensive instincts allow him to play against the other team’s top line. He is willing to play a physical game but is disciplined enough to not get himself out of position looking for a big hit. Instead, Sanderson is more than willing to engage in the physical game along the boards or in front of the net. He also has a quick stick which creates turnovers and cuts down passing lanes. Sanderson is not afraid to put his body on the line to block shots.
Projection and Comparison
Sanderson has the skills to develop into an all-around defenceman at the NHL level, playing in all situations, working on the power play and killing penalties. If he reaches his potential, he could become a huge minute eater and play on the top pair. However, he will need a year or two of development before he is ready to make an NHL impact. His game is reminiscent of Ryan Suter, but this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skill and ability.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages and features of Jake Sanderson that are available on youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect on our draft board.
Jake Sanderson Main Photo:
PLYMOUTH, MI – DECEMBER 11: Jake Sanderson #48 of the U.S. Nationals follows the play against the Slovakia Nationals during game two of day one of the 2018 Under-17 Four Nations Tournament game at USA Hockey Arena on December 11, 2018, in Plymouth, Michigan. Team USA defeated Slovakia 7-2. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)