has been carrying around the label of being a first-round pick since the New York Rangers
selected him No. 21 at the 2006 Entry Draft.
Sanguinetti played all of five NHL games for the Blueshirts before being shipped to the Carolina Hurricanes
in the summer of 2010. With less than two months before the Hurricanes open training camp, Sanguinetti is determined to scratch his way into a full-time job on Carolina's blue line.
"I'm at the age now where I need to put it all together and not just be content with being good offensively or defensively," said Sanguinetti, who signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Hurricanes last Friday. "I'm just going to go out there and play my game and rely on my instincts. Obviously, I'm an offensive guy and that's what I'm always going to be, but I just need to make sure I'm good on both sides of the puck."
The 23-year-old defenseman enjoyed a solid training camp with the Hurricanes last September and accompanied the club on its NHL Premiere Series trip to Helsinki. But he never cracked the lineup and was ultimately sent to AHL Charlotte. Sanguinetti almost immediately began to experience pain in his hip, but he tried to play through it. By mid-December, he was on the operating table and was expected to miss the remainder of the regular season.
"It's been a little bit of a roller coaster. You get the first-round tag put on you and things didn't quite work out in New York. I had two good years in the minors, but I just wasn't able to crack the lineup. I went to Carolina and had a really good camp and was able to learn a lot from the coaches there. I feel like my game kind of developed." -- Bobby Sanguinetti
"He went through a tough year last year with the hip surgery," Charlotte coach Jeff Daniels
told NHL.com. "It does take some time to come back from it. To Bobby's credit, he came back sooner than expected. He was very driven to get back for the playoffs and he was able to get back a couple of weeks before the end of the season. Now he's got all summer to train and move forward and push for a job next year in Carolina."
After missing 47 games, Sanguinetti managed to return to the Checkers' lineup in March and finished the regular season with 15 points (3 goals, 12 assists) in 31 contests. He also added a pair of assists in 10 playoff games.
"It was tough -- more mentally than anything," Sanguinetti told NHL.com. "I had a really good camp and thought I'd maybe get a chance to play (with Carolina). Going down pretty early in the season was tough. I'm just trying to put that behind me now. I'm healthy and ready to get back at it."
It's been almost two years since Sanguinetti last played in an NHL game, as he made his debut with the Rangers on Nov. 27, 2009 at Tampa Bay. A New Jersey native, Sanguinetti appeared in his first game at Madison Square Garden three nights later, when he played just over 11 minutes in a 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh.
Less than a month later, he was back in the AHL for good, where he was a two-time All-Star for Hartford. Between 2008 and 2010, Sanguinetti tallied 80 points (15 goals, 65 assists) in 139 games.
Six months later, though, he was dealt to Carolina in exchange for a sixth-round pick in 2010 and a second-round selection at last month's Entry Draft. Despite the success he enjoyed with Hartford, the Rangers -- who also had Michael Del Zotto
, Ryan McDonagh
and Dylan McIlrath
on board -- found Sanguinetti to be expendable.
"It was just a tough situation … they had a lot of young guys coming up," Sanguinetti said of his time in the Rangers' organization. "I told them that if I wasn't in the plans, I understood. That's ultimately what it came down to.
"It's been a little bit of a roller coaster. You get the first-round tag put on you and things didn't quite work out in New York. I had two good years in the minors, but I just wasn't able to crack the lineup. I went to Carolina and had a really good camp and was able to learn a lot from the coaches there. I feel like my game kind of developed. Even with being hurt, I was able to learn a lot about the system and work on things on the defensive side of the puck. Now I have to put it all together. I'm healthy and I'm excited."
That's good news for the Hurricanes, who hope Sanguinetti can continue to develop and impress in training camp. Should he be returned to Charlotte, Daniels says he will count on the 6-foot-3 blueliner to be an integral piece of the AHL club's young core.
"As of right now, we're fairly young on the back end," Daniels said. "Bobby's a guy who has that experience of playing in the American Hockey League, so he's a guy we'd lean on with his experience and what he's capable of doing on the ice.
"His asset is the way he has patience with the puck, his vision and his ability to make plays. He can run a power play. But at the same time, he is a guy that will play gritty. He's working on the other end to become a complete defenseman. But obviously, his asset is the offensive side."
So, what does Sanguinetti have to do in order to become a full-time player at the NHL level?
"He's got to make sure he's not a liability defensively," Daniels said. "That's something I think he's aware of. He's working on it. It takes some time for defensemen to figure out all the ins and outs of the game. Bobby wants to get to that next level and he's working at it. He'll go to training camp in September and we'll see what happens."
Sanguinetti can hardly wait. He knows he has a lot to prove -- especially to himself.
"Right now, I'm just focused on my goals and get where I need to be," Sanguinetti said. "After the tough year I had mentally and physically, I'm ready to get back at it."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL