Should the Chicago Blackhawks continue to improve their talent at the blue line? Defenseman Jake Sanderson would be a great option.
The Chicago Blackhawks will find officially learn if they will hold a top-three pick in the upcoming NHL Draft on June 26. With just a five percent to land the number one overall pick, the Hawks’ chances are by no means favorable, but the Chicago Bulls also landed Derrick Rose with a 1.7 percent. So, stranger things have occurred.
The Blackhawks snuck into the league’s return-to-play 24-team playoff format as a number 12 seed and will face off against the Edmonton Oilers as part of the qualifying round. On pace to score 244 goals this season, Jeremy Colliton‘s offense ranked in the middle of the pack.
But with an aging core on the blue line in both Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, combined with the youth movement in key players like Adam Boqvist, Nicolas Beaudin, and Lucas Carlsson, the Blackhawks may opt to go with a defenseman in the first round. Regardless of whether they end up with the first overall pick, the Blackhawks are likely to have a top-ten pick, which should put them in a commanding position to land an impact player.
Enter Jake Sanderson.
Elite Prospects has the Whitefish, Montana native ranked as the fourth-best prospect in this draft. Several other media have him as low as the 22nd best prospect and everywhere in between. Listed at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, Sanderson is a left-handed shot, which would add yet another lefty to the Blackhawks blue line, with only Boqvist, Seabrook, and Connor Murphy being right-handers.
Sanderson is committed to the University of North Dakota, and most recently played for the U18 Team USA, tallying seven goals with 22 assists for 29 points, which led all defenseman. He also played in the US National Hockey Team Development Program, scoring two goals with 12 assists for 14 points in a 19-game sample size.
One of the strengths of Sanderson’s game is his ability as a two-play player. He displays excellent speed to join a rush while also maintaining the ability to get back in quick transitions. Sanderson is always around the puck and in the right position when away from it. He plays aggressively in the opposition’s zone, forcing takeaways and creating opportunities for a quick score.
Sanderson has terrific vision and a strong sense of where everyone is on the ice. He is constantly moving to ensure that he’s in a favorable position to put the puck on net. He’s an excellent passer from both sides of the stick. Off faceoffs, he’s aggressive getting to the puck and quickly dishes it off to set up scoring chances.
On that note, he’s not necessarily a shoot-first defenseman, but once he sees an opportunity, he has a quick release and can snipe the puck into the back of the net.
What he’s hired to do, Sanderson is a physical presence in his own end. Whether it be crashing players into the boards, delivering a big hit away from the edge, or placing his body in harm’s way to block a shot, Sanderson can do it all.