Related story: Prospects Tournament Preview
With star junior players Marc Staal
and Michael Sauer
already signed, the Rangers' future on defense got even brighter this summer when the Blueshirts drafted New Jersey native Bobby Sanguinetti in the first round. Not only was Sanguinetti among the draft's top-ranked defensemen, he also possesses remarkable offensive skill inspired by many of the Rangers defensemen he cheered for growing up.
Sanguinetti's sophomore season with the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League was certainly impressive. He appeared in 68 games, tallying 14 goals and 51 assists for 65 points and 44 penalty minutes. He ranked fourth in the league amongst defensemen in points (65) and second in assists (51). Those numbers helped earn him a selection to the 2005-06 Western Conference All-Star team and a berth in the 2006 CHL Top Prospects game in Ottawa, where he picked up a pair of assists in a game he calls the highlight of his year before the draft itself.
The 6-foot-1, 178-pounder came on strong last spring with a spectacular postseason performance, elevating his game to another level when it really mattered the most. He skated in 11 playoff games, notching five goals and 10 assists for 15 points and four penalty minutes. His points and assists led the club, and he tied for the league lead amongst defensemen in goals. He was ranked second in points despite playing in far fewer games this his competition.
Sanguinetti is able to lead the rush like few NHL prospects. He is quick, crafty and imaginative in giving his team opportunities to put the puck in the back of the net. He is also incredibly smart, and his keen hockey sense makes it seem like he is playing the game two or three steps ahead of everyone else on the ice.
"My skating is one of my best assets, as well as my vision on the ice and moving the puck," Sanguinetti said. "Those are probably what I am best at right now and we will see where it takes me."
Equally as important, unlike many "offensive defenseman", Sanguinetti is very solid in his own end. His hockey smarts allow him to play the correct angles whether it means getting to a loose puck or to limit the opposing players options with the puck. He shuts down his opponents with an exceptionally long reach, which he skillfully uses to poke check and strip the opposition of the puck. As a result, he makes it easier for his defensive partner and other teammates because they know that the opposing player who goes against him will most likely be shut down.
Rangers Vice President of Player Personnel and Assistant General Manager Don Maloney notes Sanguinetti should be able to take full advantage of the opportunities the "new" NHL affords.
"Bobby gives us a different look on the blueline," said Maloney. "He is a smooth skater who is very skilled with the puck, so naturally, his game is well suited for the 'new' NHL."
The elimination of the center-ice red line allows Sanguinetti to use his puck skills by stretching the defense with deep home-run passes. He is not the type of defender who relies on hooking and grabbing opposing forwards to contain them, and accordingly, his value has skyrocketed given the NHL's recent increase in penalty calls. At a time where specialty teams are at a premium, Sanguinetti excels on both the power play and penalty kill.
Sanguinetti participated in the 2006 CHL Top Prospects Game.
Sanguinetti says that since the moment he was drafted, he understood the Rangers would work to mold him into the type of physical specimen they desire. Still only 18 years of age, his body is far from filled out, and the workout regimens he has been given are designed to bulk him up so he can't be pushed off the puck.
"The Rangers have stressed to me the importance of getting stronger in the weight room and off the ice," Sanguinetti said. "I feel it is something that will greatly benefit me in the future."
While the future looks stellar, Sanguinetti is concentrating very much on the present as he approaches training camp.
"My goal going into training camp is to show them how I play," he says. "They have seen me play before so I won't change much. Hopefully, I can just play my game and turn a few heads at training camp."
Sanguinetti will get his first chance to impress the Rangers coaching staff at the annual Traverse City Prospects Tournament in Michigan. From Sept. 8-12, Sanguinetti will be among the Rangers prospects taking on prospects from seven other teams.
In Traverse City, Sanguinetti will don a Rangers jersey for the first time and join a group of defensemen that includes both Staal and Sauer. The tournament should be an early indication of just how bright the Rangers' future is along the blue line. -- Ricky Henne
|BOBBY SANGUINETTI - 2005-06 STATISTICS |
|D ||Owen Sound (OHL regular season) ||68 ||14 ||51 ||65 ||44 ||8 ||0 ||4 |
| ||Owen Sound (OHL playoffs) ||11 ||5 ||10 ||15 ||4 ||4 ||0 ||0 |