When the college season ends and top prospects start signing, there is usually a bit of time for NHL clubs to get them into the lineup. Owen Power, Kent Johnson, and Matty Beniers, for instance, all played in a handful of games down the stretch and now enter training camp knowing what it takes to compete at the next level.
That would have been the case for Ottawa Senators prospect Jake Sanderson but unfortunately, a hand injury kept him on the sidelines even after signing his entry-level deal. It also likely kept him off the U.S. World Championship team, given he had already been selected for the Olympics earlier in the year.
Injury no more, Sanderson explained to reporters including Stephen Whyno of the Associated Press today, as he met with media during the NHLPA rookie showcase. The hand has now healed and the young defenseman expects to be 100% healthy for training camp later this month.
It is an interesting place the Senators find themselves in, with regards to the 20-year-old. The team already has six other defensemen signed to one-way contracts after Erik Brannstrom inked his deal yesterday, and older prospects like Jacob Bernard-Docker and Lassi Thomson pushing for spots. How Sanderson slots into the lineup is still undetermined, and there is still the possibility (however remote) that he spends a substantial amount of time in the minor leagues.
The thing is, Ottawa is now clearly trying to turn the corner on their rebuild, after acquiring the likes of Claude Giroux and Alex DeBrincat, meaning the best six should be in the lineup on any given night. Sanderson will have to fight for those minutes, even if he does come with a tremendous resume from his time with the University of North Dakota. In 45 college games, the 2020 fifth-overall pick had 41 points, including 10 goals.