Jake Sanderson of the Ottawa Senators undoubtedly turned heads with his incredibly impressive play during his rookie season. The 20-year-old defenseman, who was the fifth overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, has quickly established himself as a key piece of the Senators’ future.
Sanderson’s most notable strength is his elite skating ability. He is arguably the best skater on the team, with his speed and agility allowing him to make quick transitions and jump into the rush offensively. His skating has assisted him in successfully defending against the league’s best forwards, as he can keep up with them stride for stride while using his body positioning to shut down their scoring opportunities.
Sanderson’s ability to make small plays incredibly efficiently and consistently is an aspect of his game that may not be noticeable to some fans. It is so refreshing seeing a defender who is so poised and calm with the puck, a defender who you can confidently trust to make the safe simple play with an incredible success rate. Sanderson playmaking game took a step throughout this season particularly on the powerplay where he established himself as the quarterback and crisply made smart plays with urgency. With the integration of Chabot and Chychrun, it will be interesting to see where Sanderson slots on the special teams. Sanderson also excels at winning puck battles, using his body to protect the puck and make plays in tight spaces. Countless times this season a puck would be dumped into his corner, and Sanderson would manipulate his body to shield the puck from forecheckers allowing for him to move the puck or become a one-man breakout.
Despite being a rookie, Sanderson has already established himself as an elite two-way player. He is just as effective in his own zone as he is in the offensive end, and his strong defensive play has helped the Senators limit the opposition’s scoring chances. Sanderson’s offensive game has also improved throughout the season, with him tallying 4 goals, 28 assists and 32 points in 77 games played.
Sanderson’s discipline is another key aspect of his game. It is incredibly impressive that Sanderson only accumulated 12 penalty minutes over the course of the season, demonstrating his ability to defend players with his feet rather than his stick. His ability to stay out of the penalty box is crucial for a team that rides and dies on special teams.
Looking ahead to next season, Sanderson looks to be arguably the team’s best defender. His Corsi of 51.9% shows that he is consistently driving play in the right direction, and he did this while averaging just under 22 minutes a night, often against the other teams strongest forward lines. With his impressive play this season, it’s no surprise that there are calls for the Senators to lock him up with a long-term extension.
Personally, I would be comfortable locking Sanderson up for between 8-9 million dollars a year on a long-term extension. He has shown that he has the potential to be a cornerstone of the Senators’ defense for years to come, and his impressive rookie season is just the beginning of what should be a long and successful career in the NHL.
Jake Sanderson has been a revelation for the Ottawa Senators. His elite skating, efficient small plays, and disciplined play have made him one of the team’s most valuable players. As he continues to develop his game, Sanderson looks poised to become one of the league’s top defensemen and a key part of the Senators’ future success. Thanks again New York, LA and Detroit, I don’t know where we would be without Timmy and Jake.