Rookie Midterms: For Jake Sanderson, the best is yet to come
To the surprise of precisely no one, Jake Sanderson has acclimated well to life in the NHL as a 20-year-old rookie. Playing upwards of 25 minutes a night, featuring on both the power play and penalty kill, the former fifth-overall pick has become a pillar of the Ottawa Senators' blue line.
The Sens coaching staff trusts Sanderson to protect leads, calls his number to chase deficits, and relies on him to handle tough matchups at evens. He's often the link that connects the blue line to the attack during sustained offensive zone sequences.
Despite this substantial burden, Sanderson's underlying data all looks promising. He's scored at about the same clip as fellow Senators blueliner Thomas Chabot for most of the season, and most models paint him as a play-driving presence at both ends of the ice.
Yet somehow, Sanderson's kind of flown under the radar. The early triumphs from the 2020 NHL Draft, particularly on the blue line, have conditioned us to just expect this from players. We've tuned our meters to the exceptions, not the rule. The reality of the situation is that young players, particularly defencemen, take much longer to find their footing at the NHL level.
Nothing about Sanderson's rookie season is ordinary – it's incredibly impressive. And we shouldn't take it for granted. The Senators couldn't possibly ask more of him.
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