This post is part of Flyers Day on PHT…
There appears to be a competition brewing for a spot on the Flyers blue line this upcoming season and 21-year-old Travis Sanheim is keen to throw his name into the mix.
Taken 17th overall in the 2014 NHL Draft, Sanheim has seen a rise in his offensive production, capping off his junior career in 2016 with 15 goals and 68 points, averaging well over a point per game in the WHL. He made the jump full-time to the professional ranks last season and provided more optimism for a Flyers franchise that has built a solid prospect pool.
In 76 games with the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Sanheim reached 10 goals and 37 points, finishing second in scoring among defensemen on that team. According to numerous reports, he followed that up with a strong showing at development camp earlier this summer, too.
Now, the goal is to come to training camp next month and earn a spot on the NHL club.
Under general manager Ron Hextall’s philosophy of earn what you get, Sanheim will have his chance. But is there room? The Flyers are at a numbers crunch on the blue line. There is expected to be two spots open, presumably for Robert Hagg and Sam Morin, both of whom acquitted themselves well during their April NHL debuts.
“It’s going to come down to camp,” Sanheim told reporters in the summer. “I feel like I’m ready. I’m going to compete for a spot and until somebody tells me differently, that’s my goal. I’m coming to make the Flyers.
“It doesn’t matter what team you’re playing on. You have to work your way up the lineup. It’s just like me this year. I had to work my way up the lineup in the AHL just to start playing more and more minutes, and getting power play time and (penalty kill) time. It’s going to be the same thing. Nobody said it was going to be easy and I was going to be slotted into the first pairing.”
The Flyers took defensemen in the first rounds of three consecutive drafts, from 2013 to 2015, with Sanheim’s selection sandwiched in the middle. In 2015, Philly took Ivan Provorov at seventh overall. At just 20 years old, the Russian blue liner wasted little time in making an impact on the NHL roster, playing in all 82 games last season, scoring six goals and 30 points.
Morin and Sanheim have each had time to develop in the minors, with the former spending the past two seasons in the AHL, which should prove beneficial to the growth in their games heading into September.
“Whenever you play in the American League you get a leg up because you’ve been playing at a higher level of competition for a full year,” Hextall said, per the Courier-Post.
“You expect those guys to come in and be a little more NHL ready than a kid that’s coming right out of junior, but the players are gonna dictate who’s on our team. We’ll see how it goes.”