The season is still very young and yet Jake Sanderson has come through in spades. The Senators have had a solid start to the season, now coming off back-to-back home-ice wins, and Sanderson has been getting plenty of opportunities. Things are looking up both individually for Sanderson, and from the team right now. Let’s take a look at what has been so successful thus far and going forward.
The Ottawa Senators Rookie Defenceman Jake Sanderson
Both from a club and individual standpoint, expectations were sky-high coming into this season. Sanderson was more than prepared to make the jump to the NHL. He had spent two full seasons growing stronger and smarter at the University of North Dakota (UND). In his time there, he accumulated 41 points in 45 games. Given his advanced skating ability to supplement his sufficient NHL defenceman size requirement at 6’2”, Sanderson was more than ready to make the leap. The Ottawa Senators were more than ready to welcome the mature young man, providing an elite supporting cast after off-season signings.
Facing Adversity and Answering the Questions
There were some questions coming into camp. Sanderson had experienced some adversity throughout the 2021-22 season. He was named as part of the Olympic team and then had that experience ended after only one appearance due to injury. Next, he ended up requiring surgery after another injury at UND. In an attempt to take positives from the last season, Sanderson used it to work on the mental side of the game. In the interview from April 2022 with TSN1200 on the Ottawa Senators, Sanderson says: “Mental toughness for me, was definitely something I worked on.” As we have witnessed from his performance on the ice, right from the beginning of the exhibition schedule, nothing could be more accurate.
Strong Performance Right Out-Of-Camp
Now that we are four games into the schedule, all the hype surrounding Sanderson and Senators may be becoming more of a reality than a pipedream. From the preseason when Sanderson was given plenty of extra opportunities and did not look out of place, he has been rewarded with similar treatment to start the season. He has had a regular penalty kill assignment through the club’s first four matchups. Also, he has seen some time on the power play as well. His play performance is granted a small sample size. However, he has 19:43 ATOI so far, with a CF% of 53.7 and with an oZS% of 40.4. This last metric shows he is getting some more demanding, defensive responsibilities.
Where Sanderson Fits In
The pairing of Sanderson along with Travis Hamonic may not be up to traditional top-four standards. However, do not tell the pairing that, as they have not seemed off NHL pace. Combining this with the recent Nikita Zaitsev injury, the defence unit as a whole has some clarity. This was after some pre-season question marks. Nick Holden does not seem to get enough credit as a crucial veteran willing to fill any role. Right now that role is to assist Erik Brannstrom’s transition into a solidified top-six D-man in the league. Brannstrom was another defence, like Sanderson, who seemed to have grown in the off-season, and was ready to become an NHL regular.
Jake Sanderson’s Style of Play
Perhaps it is from growing up around the game. Maybe it is having a dad with NHL veteran experience, Geoff Sanderson but the poise and calmness Sanderson shows with the puck have not gone unnoticed. He goes back and retrieves the puck with his elite skating abilities, and protects it with the calmness of a savvy NHL vet. Moreover, some current NHLers to liken his game include: Jacob Trouba, Morgan Rielly, or Ryan Suter. Hence, maybe not the most physical of names, but guys who will efficiently skate to where they need to, regardless of who’s in their way.
The Impact on the Ottawa Senators Team
Other teams have taken notice too, of Sanderson’s excellent start to the season. Even in last night’s game (Thursday vs Washington Capitals), after a Nic Dowd hit forced Sanderson to miss some shifts in the second period. He came back and continued his strong and poised showing in a regular shift to end the contest, with Ottawa turning their fortunes around in support of their young teammate.
Some Closing Notes On Sanderson and the Senators
All-around things are looking very positive for the Senator’s organization. After a sellout crowd on Tuesday’s homeopener and nailing down a second consecutive win on Thursday, the whole team and fan base is buzzing. The rookies are not looking out of place, as Shane Pinto has looked very strong along with Sanderson. This is Pinto’s rookie season essentially, having appeared in only 17 games over the past two seasons. He already has 3 goals in the team’s first four games. If Sanderson can maintain his strong play, he may find himself being an addition to the Calder conversation come year’s end.
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