The Philadelphia Flyers selected Travis Sanheim with the 17th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Sanheim is a defenseman who played for the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL this past season. Here are Sanheim’s basic numbers:
Games Played: 67
These numbers do not look very impressive, so they beg the question, why did the Flyers draft Sanheim at the 17th spot?
Let’s go beyond the numbers and evaluate Sanheim’s season. What the numbers above do not show us are trends. We have no idea whether those 29 points came in his first 30 games, his last 30 games, or whether or not they were evenly dispersed throughout the season. They do not tell us whether they came at even strength or on the power play. These are all factors to consider when evaluating a draft pick.
The numbers also do not show us if Sanheim has good skating ability, if he had a lot of ice time, or if he is smart in his own zone.
The first thing to look at is Sanheim’s trajectory. He got much better throughout the season. If you break his season down into three parts (22 games, 22 games, and 23 games), you can see an alarming trend.
First 22 games: 0 goals, 3 assists (3 points)
Next 22 games: 4 goals, 8 assists (12 points)
Final 23 games: 1 goal, 13 assists (14 points)
As his season progressed, Sanheim put more and more points on the board. His growth throughout the year is seen in the following rankings:
|NHL Central Scouting||167th||53rd|
|Craig Button Rankings||49th||8th|
As you can see, he leaped up in every ranking. He went from an unknown commodity, to a projected first round pick. The trajectory of Sanheim’s season is up.
Second, let’s look at his even strength vs power play stats. His 29 points ranked 15th among draft eligible defensemen from the Canadian Junior Leagues. His points were nowhere near those of Anthony DeAngelo (71pts), Julius Honka (56pts), or Aaron Ekblad (53pts).
However, he ranked t-6th among the same group of defensemen in even strength scoring. His four goals and 16 assists earned him the same amount of even strength points (20) as the number one overall pick, defenseman Aaron Ekblad.
So, 29 points from a draft eligible defenseman may not blow anyone away. But when looking at the trajectory of his season and the fact that almost 70% of his points came at even strength, there is reason to believe that Sanheim has offensive potential. Remember, this past season was Sanheim’s first season in the WHL. He spent the beginning of the year adjusting to a new league and not getting a lot of ice time.*
Finally, let’s take a quick look at the aspects of Sanheim’s game that cannot be measured in numbers. Craig Button’s scouting report lists Sanheim as follows:
Ice Q: 5/5
Compete Level: 5/5
Any highlight/scouting video of Sanheim gives credence to the 5/5 ranking of his skating. The way Sanheim moves his feet is mesmerizing, especially when you consider that he is 6’3″. This scouting report from NHL Central Scouting’s B.J. MacDonald indicates that “he has the size and hockey sense for the next level.”
Could his shot use some work? Most likely. However, when a big defenseman has great skating ability and smarts, he can compensate for a sub-par shot.
Travis Sanheim is still incredibly raw. He will likely take another year or two in the WHL, and then possibly some time in the AHL. But if all goes as planned, the Flyers look to have found a big, smart, smooth skating defenseman.
*Both his highlight video (linked above) and the quote (linked above) indicate that Sanheim’s ice time increased throughout the season.*
More in this series: