The Washington Capitals announced today that they have signed prospect Zach Sanford to an entry-level contract. The contract is for a reported 3 years at $875K per year. Sanford, who was set to be a junior at Boston College this year, will instead enter his first pro season with the Capitals, who drafted him 61st overall in the 2013 NHL Draft. Sanford is the seventh player to depart early from Boston College this off-season, and collegiate hockey players continue to trend towards leaving school early to pursue their pro careers.
Sanford joins defenseman Steve Santini and forward Miles Wood, both New Jersey Devils property, forwards Alex Tuch and Adam Gilmour, both Minnesota Wild prospects, Vancouver goalie Thatcher Demko, and Florida defenseman Ian McOshen as Eagles who will no longer be a part of the Boston College ’16-’17 season, to the surprise of many in the program. The change is evident in Chestnut Hill, as BC men’s hockey will not have a single junior player on this year’s team.
Boston College is not alone in their struggles, as Michigan has lost five players early, including star prospects Kyle Connor (Winnipeg) and Zach Werenski (Columbus), and the defending National Champions, North Dakota, have lost five and counting as well. Many other programs are still reeling from the early exits of one or two of their star student-athletes as well.
However, Boston College has become the face of this trend. With seven underclassmen players leaving this summer to go along with many that preceded them over the past few seasons, the Eagles know all too well of this worrisome trend and the harsh effects it can have on a program’s ability to compete. The rise of NCAA hockey has been very apparent over the past decade and has been imperative to the continued growth of both grassroots hockey in the United States and a growing American fan base. But with key players now departing earlier than expected, college programs may have to go back to the drawing board in a recruiting sense, changing the ways that they analyze players and build teams based on the likelihood that those recruits will stay or leave. While a storied program like Boston College can replace even a talented prospect like Zach Sanford with relative ease, many programs could be left damaged for years following the early exit of a centerpiece player. It is an issue that will continue to draw attention in the college ranks and throughout hockey.