Like most pro-eligible players sent back to their junior clubs, Calgary Hitmen defenceman Travis Sanheim was disappointed when the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers sent him back to the Western Hockey League on Sept. 23.
A first-round selection, 17th overall, at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the native of Elkhorn, Man., registered a power-play goal Friday in his team’s 4-2 victory over the Kootenay Ice.
While one goal won’t be enough to wash clean the wound of an early cut from NHL training camp, it could serve as part of the foundation for a strong season as Sanheim strives to grow in hopes of making the jump to the pro game next fall.
“It was a really good experience. Obviously I wanted to stay there as long as I could and I’m obviously disappointed to get sent home when I did,” Sanheim said of his experience with the Flyers. “At the same time, it motivated me and pushes me to be better and make sure I have a strong season this year and work on what they want me working on so I can go into next year with a better mindset. Next year, I’m hopefully making pro hockey at some level. I just want to make sure I get myself ready for that.”
Sanheim signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Flyers last September and as a 19-year-old, could have played in the American Hockey League this season.
But Flyers’ brass thought best for his development to send him back to junior.
There’s no questioning Sanheim has the natural frame for pro hockey. At 6-foot-4 and 199 pounds, the reach, range and stride are all there. As is the case with most junior players, he could benefit from additional strength and a little more weight on his frame, but that will come in time.
Sanheim posted 15 goals and 65 points in 67 games with the Hitmen last season. In 136 career WHL games, the lanky defender has 95 points to his credit.
When he steps onto the ice, the pace of the game changes and his presence is immediately noticeable, especially in the offensive zone. There’s no questioning his instincts.
While fantasy hockey managers might salivate over those gaudy numbers, real life suggests a more developed two-way game is key to making the next step in one’s hockey career and Sanheim is no stranger to that fact.
“Obviously, my offensive game is there,” Sanheim said. “I want to be able to play a full, two-way game, especially if I’m going to play pro hockey. My defensive side of the puck, I want to make sure I’m playing my one-on-ones strong and defending well, using my stick well and making sure I’m assertive defensively and not giving up too much.”
For the Kootenay Ice, there wasn’t much to be had this weekend while Sanheim was on the ice as he registered a plus-two rating in two games alongside Friday’s power-play goal.
That is a reality Ice players and fans alike should get accustomed to once again this season.
The two Central Division rivals will meet five more times, the next coming Fri., Nov. 13 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary.
The Hitmen next visit Cranbrook during the holiday season — Sun., Dec. 27 at 4 p.m.