Every draft has its risers and sliders, but what they all have in common is that once a prospect from a position that lacks high end depth gets selected, the other teams needing to fill that void will hurry in order to get the next best available.
When Montreal drafted Jesperi Kotkaniemi third overall, many believed it to be a bit of a reach, but soon enough, the Arizona Coyotes selected Barrett Hayton just two spots after the Canadiens selected. He was the next best center available. The same thing happened in 2019 when Colorado selected defensemen Bowen Byram with the fourth overall pick and only two spots later, Detroit surprised many by drafting Moritz Seider sixth overall. This pattern should continue this year. Whether Jamie Drysdale or Jake Sanderson are selected first, the other will be drafted soon after.
Jamie Drysdale should be the first defensemen off the board and it’s a matter of which of the top five teams after the first two will select him. I don’t expect him to last beyond pick five and once his name is called, expect Jake Sanderson to be one of the next picks. The question many are asking would be is he a legit top five-10 pick or is it the scarcity of a high end player at that position pushing him higher than his actual rank?
With all this free time due to the quarantine, I have gotten a chance to look at an abundance of clips and play-by-play tape in order to come to the conclusion that Jake Sanderson is indeed worth a top 10 selection.
His overall game is described as elegant and efficient while also being durable and straight forward. He’s your typical all-around defensemen who you can pair with someone more offensively minded and aggressive to create a balanced pair or put him with someone with similar attributes and create a reliable shut down duo to play against teams top units and their power plays. Jake is not some random prospect who is rising due to a need, but he is rising because teams see the value in his game and so should you.
At first glance, he doesn’t look like a gifted offensive force, but behind his stats lies another level of production. He has produced admirably over the last couple of years, playing for various programs throughout North America and eventually landing a roster spot on the US National Team where he recorded 74 points in 132 games and captained both the U17 and U18 squads and later finished his pre-college career with the US National development program.
Beyond the score sheet, Sanderson plays the position in a modern way. He moves the puck well, joins the transition up the ice and makes high quality plays when he has the puck. He’s not a defender that will station himself at the point and wait for the puck. He moves around and gets into areas to help out his teammates. He’s a new-age defensemen and teams value versatility a lot.
While he is undervalued as an offensive weapon, there is no doubt that he is the best defender in the draft. What makes him such a good defender is not the use of strength or toughness on other players, but his good mobility and smooth skating which allows him to keep up and maintain pressure on opposing players where he can then play the puck or sometimes separate it from them and have his teammates come in and get the puck out. His awareness and general IQ is what has him so valuable to teams and why his rising stock is due to his well developed playing style.
Almost any team in the top 10 can benefit from adding Sanderson to its prospect pool. He brings a lot of what teams look for in a defensemen and he also brings leadership qualities that show he has tremendous character and could one day be among a team’s group of captains.
Moving on, it’s believed that Alexis Lafreniere will end up going first no matter which team gets the first overall pick. It is expected that Quinton Byfield and Tim Stutzle will follow after. The talk starts at pick four where Jamie Drysdale could go, but there is a lot of chatter that many teams see Sanderson as the better option and could choose him ahead of the many who are believed to be the consensus best defensemen in the NHL Entry Draft. What is certain to me is that every team has their own list and most often then not, the rankings are similar, but there is always a dozen surprises on draft day, so expect Jake Sanderson to be one of them.