Is Zach Sanford Truly Ready for the NHL?

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Photo: New York Rangers

opinion When the Capitals signed 2013 second-round pick (61st overall) Zach Sanford to an entry-level contract before the start of training camp, many believed that the 21-year old rookie was ready for a full-time role in the NHL. But after four games played in the league, Sanford has yet to justify those beliefs. 

While it is a very small sample size, and it often takes players as young as Sanford time to adjust to the pace of the NHL, Sanford hasn’t been able to continue his strong showing from the preseason. Which begs the question: Is Sanford truly ready for the NHL?

To me at least, Sanford hasn’t looked as dangerous as he did during the preseason, and there could be a few reasons for that. First, the strength of competition in the preseason is often not as strong as it is during the regular season, as most of a team’s regular players are held out to give younger or newer players a chance to compete for a roster spot.

Secondly, Sanford hasn’t yet adjusted to the rigorous pace and physicality of the NHL. As Caps fans have experienced with both Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov in the last few seasons, it takes some time for young players to cope with the fast pace of the NHL, and for a player like Sanford, who’s spent the last three seasons playing at Boston College, it may take longer to catch up. Although, at 6’4″, 203 lbs, Sanford is clearly big enough to win battles for pucks.

Through four games played, Sanford has no points, an even plus/minus rating, and is averaging 11:49 of ice time. His possession statistics are impressive though, as he has a 54.9 Corsi rating and a Fenwick rating of 56.7. His offensive struggles could simply be related to the overall offensive struggles of the team, as he has seen some good opportunities to get his first goal, but has yet to capitalize.

If Sanford’s lack of production continues when the Caps revive their faltering offense (and they will get going), and the Caps find he is struggling with the pace of the NHL, then the best option is to send him to the AHL to allow him to play at a slower pace but at the best level of competition outside the NHL.

Whether Sanford’s slow start is a result of the team’s struggles or trouble adjusting to the pace of the best league in the world, the Capitals will need him to figure it out soon, as he is going to be an important factor in helping the Caps’ bottom six become more productive. What do you think Caps fans? Is Sanford ready for the NHL or have the Caps brought him on board before he is truly ready?

By Michael Fleetwood

About Michael Fleetwood

Michael Fleetwood was born into a family of diehard Capitals fans and has been watching games as long as he can remember. He was born the year the Capitals went to their first Stanley Cup Final, and is a diehard Caps fan, the owner of the very FIRST Joe Beninati jersey and since then, has met Joe himself. His favorite player became former Capital Nate Schmidt after he met Schmidt in a Hershey hotel while in Hershey PA to see the Bears play, shortly after Schmidt was injured during a conditioning stint. Michael is also a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Orioles, and enjoys photography, watching WildEarth TV's SafariLive live safaris, and watching animals in his spare time. (Photo by Adam Vingan in 2014 at the Capitals Development Camp).
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