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Jake Sanderson has established himself as one of the premier up-and-coming defensemen in the NHL after a spectacular rookie season. Although the average NHL fan recognizes Sanderson as a player with a promising future, I am here to show why he is quickly establishing himself as one of the league’s very best in just his second NHL season. If he continues to play the way he has to start the season, there is a very real chance that he could establish himself as a top 10-20 defenseman in the NHL by season’s end.
Jake Sanderson’s Elite Speed
Probably the most valuable asset in Jake Sanderson’s arsenal is his incredible skating ability. This skating allows him to jump into the play without getting caught up ice. On top of this, Sanderson is still easily able to recover if the puck is turned over by the Senators. He never seems to be out of position, regardless of how far he roams into the offensive zone.
Take this play, for example, from last night’s game.
There are a few key components to this play which really showcase how effective Jake Sanderson is in the defensive zone. Observe how TJ Oshie starts with a 3-4 stride gap on Sanderson coming over the blue line. Not only does he have this gap, but Oshie also picks up the puck in stride, so he can carry his momentum into the Ottawa zone. After this pass, Jake Sanderson is forced to pivot his body towards his net to limit the breakaway. However, due to Sanderson’s incredible skating ability, he was able to catch up to TJ Oshie before he could get a shot on net.
The second aspect of this defensive play that is incredibly impressive is the way Jake Sanderson used his body to angle off any sort of shot from Oshie. This begins with Sanderson angling Oshie away from the net to eliminate a drive across the crease. Oshie noticed this and attempted to spin off pressure with the puck to get a scoring opportunity.
This is where Jake Sanderson’s positioning was key once again. You will notice that as Oshie spins away from pressure, Sanderson reads this play and, instead of continuing towards his net, he digs his right skate into the ice, which eliminates the room for Oshie to line his stick up for a shot on net. With no ability to get a stick on the puck, Oshie was forced to watch as it slid harmlessly towards Anton Forsberg. On a play that would have been a breakaway in most scenarios, Sanderson stopped TJ Oshie from even registering a shot on goal.
Here is a clip showcasing Jake Sanderson’s top-end speed with the puck on his stick.
Look at how he creates a scoring opportunity out of nothing just by moving his feet. The clip shows Sanderson reaching a top-end speed of 34 km/h while he has the puck on his stick. He blew past the Colorado defense starting from his own zone and nearly finished the play off with a semi-breakaway. He is easily the best overall skater on the Ottawa Senators, and he is in the upper echelon of skaters league-wide.
Just as noticeable as Jake Sanderson’s skating ability is his defensive awareness. He has one of the best defensive minds in the NHL, and is constantly breaking up plays in Ottawa’s zone. The reads that Sanderson makes are really impressive, especially considering he is only in his second National Hockey League season. Sanderson seems to read what the opponents are thinking with ease, and he uses his skating and strong stick to interrupt offensive players.
Check out this YouTube video breaking down some of Sanderson’s defensive plays from last season. It shows his uncanny ability to use his feet and stick in the defensive zone to both keep up with the opponents and jam any plays they try to make.
Growing His Offensive Game
The start of the 2023/2024 season has shown us that Jake Sanderson is elevating his offensive game to a whole new level. Through four games this season, Jake Sanderson has already tallied 2 goals and 3 assists for a total of 5 points. This production is no fluke; Jake Sanderson has been generating offense at a much higher level this season. He recently earned a spot on the top power play unit for the Sens, so expect his numbers to climb even higher.
Check out this play by Jake Sanderson from Wednesday’s game against the Washington Capitals.
Observe how Jake Sanderson utilizes his speed to not only gain the blue line but also create a high-danger chance. This nose for the net was something we didn’t really see from Jake Sanderson last season. After expressing a desire to boost his offensive game this year, Jake Sanderson has demonstrated he was not kidding. This play resulted in a goal for the Sens from Artem Zub, assisted by Jake Sanderson.
But it’s not just the newfound nose for the net that we’ve seen from Jake Sanderson. He has also showcased his shot early this season, which looks much more deadly than it did last season. Sanderson finished the last season with just 4 goals in 77 games. He’s already halfway to matching this total from last season, and it’s only been 4 games. Here are the two goals from Jake Sanderson this season.
Looking At Jake Sanderson’ Stats
- 77 Games
- 21:55 TOI
- 4 Goals
- 28 Assists
- 12 Pims
- 147 Blocks
- 43 Hits
- 51.75 CF%
- 51.82 FF%
- 50.62 xG%
- 52.27 SCF%
- 52.58 HDCF%
For a rookie these were very impressive numbers, especially as a defenceman.
- 4 Games
- 21:12 TOI
- 2 Goals
- 3 Assists
- 2 Pims
- 5 Blocks
- 1 Hit
- 53.10 CF%
- 54.22 FF%
- 56.55 xG%
- 53.57 SCF%
- 57.14 HDCF%
Across the board, Jake Sanderson has improved his play this season in both advanced and basic statistical categories. This demonstrates that the increased results for Sanderson are not a matter of better puck luck, but rather a result of his improved play. If Sanderson stays on his current trajectory, and continues producing at a high level, he will be recognized as one of the best defensemen in the NHL by season’s end.
The sky is the limit for Jake Sanderson, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him establish himself as the Ottawa Senators MVP by season’s end.
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