Philadelphia Flyers Final Player Grades: Travis Sanheim

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

As the resumption of the 2019-20 NHL regular season becomes increasingly unlikely by the day, we can fully evaluate individual players from the Philadelphia Flyers. Today we grade out defenseman Travis Sanheim.

Under former GM Ron Hextall, the Philadelphia Flyers made a commitment to drafting and developing defensemen, and Travis Sanheim fell squarely within that plan, as he was Hextall’s first draft pick.

One year after after the previous regime had taken rearguards Samuel Morin and Robert Hagg with their first two picks, the Flyers made Sanheim the 17th overall selection of the 2014 Draft before using yet another high pick on Ivan Provorov the following year. The thinking was, “collect ’em all, some are bound to hit the mark”. And while Sanheim hasn’t exactly blown the doors off things, the Flyers have to be feeling pretty good about his progress to this point.

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Sanheim’s career has felt like a slow burn so far, as he took three full years to arrive at the NHL before making his debut at the start of the 2017-18 season. He’d go on to play 49 games in his rookie year, and he acquitted himself decently, though it came in sheltered minutes as he played 15:35 per game.

He started to deliver in 2018-19, racking up 35 points while appearing in all 82 games, one of the few bright spots of progress in an otherwise lost year for the team. And so it stood to reason that 2019-20 could be a real leap year for Sanheim (unrelated to February 29), as the team needed him to step up even more.

He’s mostly done the job.

Sanheim has seen his ice time jump from 19:34 to 20:09 since last season, taking a bigger bite of the pie as the Flyers expected. His raw scoring rate has to be viewed as a bit of a disappointment, though, as he’ll finish this season with just 25 points in 69 games. Even if a full season ended up happening, he likely would have fallen short of last year’s point total, though he might have managed to hit double digit goals for the first time in his career.

Some nights, Sanheim looks like the best player, or at least the best defenseman on the ice. As evidence of this, you can look at his 3-point performance on December 23 against the Rangers or his 2-goal effort in the team’s epic comeback over the Bruins where he showed some dazzling offensive skills.

But there also was the (mercifully) brief stretch earlier this year where Sanheim looked like he forgot how to skate. Literally. He couldn’t stay upright, and it was ugly. And while he did recover from whatever case of the yips he had, things like that are sure to give the organization and its fans pause in the future whenever Sanheim struggles for even a short time.

Still, it’s clear that the talent is there and Sanheim hasn’t yet put all of it together. Hopefully, going forward, he can emerge as more of a power play force. In a perfect world, he would be the best choice to run the point on the top PP unit (barring some miraculous return to form by Shayne Gostisbehere), because it’s something that Ivan Provorov shouldn’t have to do.

Overall, even if his point production remains so-so, all other factors indicate that Sanheim is improving, and the best looks like it’s yet to come for him.

TRAVIS SANHEIM. B. <strong>It was a year of fairly steady progress for Travis Sanheim, but he will be hurt immensely if there are no playoffs to speak of this season. That’s the kind of experience he desperately needs to take his game to another level. Still, we can only grade players on what they showed this year, and you have to like what Sanheim did in Year 3 as an NHLer.</strong>. D. Philadelphia Flyers

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