I know what you’re thinking. A defenceman? After Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg, you’re gonna go out and take a defenceman?
Given how the SB Nation Mock Draft worked itself out, Jake Sanderson’s name popped off the page at fourteenth overall.
The Whitefish, Montana native slipped to fourteen in SB Nation’s 2020 Mock Draft. Even though the Oilers have a pen of defensive prospects, we took Jake Sanderson at 14th overall.
Let’s see where that puts Sanderson in our mock draft.
Carolina Hurricanes - Yaroslav Askarov
ALL ABOUT JAKE
DOB: 08 July 2002
RANKINGS (courtesy Elite Prospects)
#8 by TSN/McKenzie
A left-shooting left defenceman, Jake Sanderson (I keep wanting to call him Geoff, his father) would be the first NHL player to hail from Montana. Sanderson is a two-way defenceman who skates well, has very good hockey sense to help him mitigate issues in his own zone, and he’s not afraid to join the rush. All arrows up!
The immediate knock on Sanderson is that he doesn’t have gaudy point totals, but he’s a sharp player that’s able to neutralize threats and make the first pass when necessary. I’m a big believer of “good things translate to the scoresheet” kind of thinker, and though Sanderson doesn’t have those lofty point totals (at least, not yet), he does all of the big things well to warrant a selection at 14. I’d be pretty surprised to see this player available at the mid-teens, he could go as high as the fifth pick to Ottawa. Sanderson is likely no worse than the second defenceman picked in this year’s NHL Draft.
Sanderson has played with the US National Team’s U17 and U18 teams, wearing the captain’s ‘C’ on both squads. He will play with the University of North Dakota in 2020-21, but it’s fair to reason that he may only be there for a couple of years. His speed and agility are very good, and his gap control is only getting better. As previously mentioned, Sanderson does not carry the big point totals, though his shot from the point shows lots of promise.
Sanderson is 185 lbs, up from 170 the year prior. A couple more years will probably see him over 200, which will do wonders for his strength and conditioning. He’s not averse to laying a big hit, which will help make him a favourite no matter where he ends up.
His (lack of) point totals may be one of the defining reasons he slips in this year’s draft. I think there will be plenty of opportunity for him to advance in that department, but his ability to turn a dangerous situation in his own end and completely flip the play around is one of his greatest abilities. One improvement that Sanderson will no doubt continue to work on is his positioning in his own zone. He’s excellent when he’s actively defending a player with the puck, but has at times had the tendency to over-think the play in front of him.
Sanderson looks like he’d project out to be a very good middle pair defender, though I think it’s difficult to cap his upside. If by 2022-23 he’s gained 20 pounds and worked a bit more on positioning in his own zone, I don’t think a #2 defenceman is too far of a stretch. This pick would absolutely be a safe pick with a potential to turn into something much more than you may have originally bargained for. And in Edmonton, we like winning.
I have a hard time believing that Sanderson slips to 14th overall, but I’d have a really difficult time walking away from a player with this sort of skill set if he did. He’s a rearguard who shows responsibility with and without the puck, he’s got some physicality to his game and he thinks the game well.
The Oilers would do well to select Sanderson at 14, even though their prospect pool on defence is already quite full. The Oilers will continue to need players to help fill out the wings on the big club today, but Sanderson very well could be the best player available on the board if he’s not taken by the mid-teens of round one.
And let’s be honest; you can’t ever have enough defencemen.