Travis Sanheim is a defenseman that rocketed up prospect rankings in the last year. After making the jump from Midget hockey, it took the Elkhorn, Manitoba native some time to adjust to the WHL.
When Hitmen captain Jaynen Rissling was injured during the season, Sanheim seized the opportunity earn more ice time. In 67 games in Calgary, he amassed five goals, 29 points, and a plus-25 rating while only being assessed 14 PIMs.
After a first round playoff exit with the Hitmen, Sanheim joined Team Canada where he capped off season and caught the attention of NHL scouts throughout the league:
Sanheim was an absolute stud and emerged as a go-to defender for Team Canada at the World U18 Championships helping to capture a bronze medal and leading the team in defenseman scoring (7-0-6-6).
At 6'3 and 181 lbs, Sanheim development into an NHL ready defenseman may be a bit more ahead than some guys still looking to bulk up, such as Marcus Petterrsson. Travis benefited from a timely growth spurt shortly after being drafted by the Hitmen in 2011.
Sanheim compared himself to a familiar Olympic defenseman when asked in an interview which player he watches closely:
"A guy I’ve been told I play like is Jay Bouwmeester. A guy who skates really well and is a good puck-moving defenceman."
You can check out Sanheim's highlights from the last season in the WHL below:
Blessed with impressive physical attributes supplemented by good conditioning and both a strong upper and lower body [...] helped recover for defence partner with effective stick sweep checks stretching himself out while maintaining balance [...] strategically places his body into passing lanes doing a good job of blocking shots [...] an improving slap shot, but still needs a little time to cue up his wrist shot, ultimately lacking sting.
Hockey sense is pretty good, making nice reads while mixing patience with up-tempo puck movement. Does a good job of recognizing the oncoming forecheck and carrying the puck into the zone if given the space to do so. Sanheim is a good all-round player. Has a lot of upside as a big defenseman who can play in any role.
Sanheim made the Hitmen as a bottom-pairing defenseman that struggled with consistency early on. He has shown flashes of apparent upside, but was thought of as a long-term prospect requiring much development time. While he will still require some time to adjust to the pro ranks, Sanheim’s progress this season has been staggering and he was able to move from being a fringe roster player into roles where he was able to contribute as an impact player for both the Hitmen and for Team Canada at the U18s.
International Scouting Services:
Average Ranking: 23
There's a lot of hype surrounding Sanheim headed into the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, which makes it a bit hard to read where exactly he'll go. If the reports are warranted, there's a good chance we'll see the 18-year-old taken well before the Habs pick at 26.
Craig Button's top-10 ranking aside, the average has Sanheim falling almost right in the Canadiens lap. If that's the case the scouting department will have to assess whether Travis is the player who had a slow start to the WHL season to find himself a healthy scratch, or the go-to defenseman that turned heads at the under-18 World Championships.
One last interesting note is an article Simon Ledsham, one of the Eyes on the Prize community members, shared. To put it simply, the article explains that a player needs to maintain a 0.6 points per game average over the course of his draft year in the CHL to have a fair shot at making the NHL. The article backs this claim up with data that you can dive into by clicking here. With a 0.43 points per game average, Sanheim may have his work cut out for him self.
Follow Travis Sanheim on Twitter for frequent #missedit hashtags and photographic proof that he's an uncle: