Sanford: 'I really came out of nowhere'

Sanford: 'I really came out of nowhere'
July 16, 2013, 10:15 am
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Now that the Capitals’ weeklong development camp is over and players have lugged their equipment bags back to their summer residences, we’re taking a look back at the impressions left by a handful of Caps’ prospects and what lies ahead for each.

Today: Zach Sanford

When the second round of this year’s NHL draft was drawing to a close, the Capitals saw a name on their prospects list that they knew would not be still sitting there at the bottom of the third round.

So, they cobbled picks in the third [84th overall], fourth [114th] and fifth [127th] rounds and sent them to the Winnipeg Jets for the chance to take 6-foot-3, 184-pound left wing Zach Sanford with the 61st pick overall.

After their first extended look at him last week, the Caps were happy they made the move.

“We like big Sanford,” general manager George McPhee said. “He’s a big, talented kid who just needs time to develop.”

Like Andre Burakovsky and Madison Bowey, the two players taken by the Caps ahead of him, Sanford will need time to grow into his big frame. When he does, the Caps are hoping to turn Sanford into a player in the mold of 6-foot-3, 200-pound Toronto Maple Leafs left winger James van Riemsdyk, who was taken second overall in the 2007 draft and scored 18 goals last season.

“I’m good at working around the net and for looking for rebounds,” Sanford said. “I remember Coach [Sean] Tremblay ripped me apart a couple times for that, kind of bashed it into my head. That’s become a bigger part of my game.”

Sanford, 18, grew up in Auburn, New Hampshire and began skating at the age of 5. He racked up 36 goals and 69 points in his final season at PinkertonAcademy but didn’t draw much attention until he played for Tremblay with the Middlesex Islanders of the Eastern Junior Hockey League, where he recorded 12 goals and 24 assists in 37 games and another four goals and four assists in seven playoff games.

“I really came out of nowhere,” he said. “High school hockey, nothing really happened there. And then I heard some teams were interested in watching me.”

Sanford narrowed his college choices down to the University of New Hampshire, Cornell and BostonCollege and committed to attend BC beginning with the 2014-15 season.

Sanford said he has decided to play for Waterloo [Iowa]of the United State Hockey League before attending BC.

“A big part of it is challenging myself a year before I go to BC,” he said. “I think if I would have stayed home, it would have been an easy move for me, a comfortable place, guys I already know. I think going up there will be a big challenge for me.”

McPhee said he was impressed with Sanford enough to wonder if he can handle playing at BostonCollege as a freshman.

“If they ask we’ll certainly tell them what our staff thinks,” McPHee said. “I’m not sure. I don’t think you can go wrong either way. What they have to determine is who’s ahead of him and how much is he going to play in both places.”

Sanford considers himself a late developer and believes one year in Waterloo will prepare him for his first full season at BostonCollege. After that, he hopes to be strong enough to challenge for a spot with the Capitals in 2015.

“I know I need to work on being a better defensive player,” he said. “I’ll work as hard as I can. Hopefully, in a couple years I’ll be fighting for a spot on the team.”