• 2009-10 Hartford Wolf Pack Watch
By Dan David, newyorkrangers.com
At age 21, defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti lived a childhood dream when he was called up to the New York Rangers team that he had rooted for since his earliest days as a hockey player and fan in Lumberton, N.J.
Sanguinetti, the Blueshirts' first-round draft pick at No. 21 overall in 2006, had been playing his best hockey with the AHL's Hartford Wolf Pack when he got the call to New York on Nov. 26, 2009. He would go on to make his Rangers debut the following night at Tampa and played his first game at The Garden four nights later against Pittsburgh.
Making that first regular-season appearance on MSG ice was a proud moment for the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Sanguinetti, his family, and thousands of Rangers fans who can relate to what this opportunity meant. As a boy, Sanguinetti had been to countless Rangers games, watching the Blueshirts of the 1990s, and now he was the one being watched.
"I don't think it (being in the NHL) really hit me until I played my first game at Madison Square Garden and kind of realized I'm here, I made it and I got to play the one game there," said Sanguinetti. "That was really exciting, and I'm just ready to get back there as soon as possible."
Sanguinetti's first NHL stint lasted three games before he returned to the Wolf Pack on Dec. 1. Just over two weeks later, he was back in the NHL for a two-game run that ended following a 2-1 win at Philadelphia on Dec. 19.
|Defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti,the Blueshirts'' first-round pick at the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, has been a back-to-back AHL All-Star in his first two full pro hockey seasons with the Hartford Wolf Pack. |
What mattered most about his first five-games in the NHL was a chance for Sanguinetti to experience the lifestyle he hopes to experience every day for years to come.
"It's really exciting to be at that level," he said. "It's a big accomplishment to play in the NHL, since not too many guys get that chance. To be a part of that was great, but obviously it leaves you wanting more, and you just want to get back to that next level, and you'll do anything it takes."
Sanguinetti likely would have seen more time in the NHL in 2009-10, but two factors worked against that happening. The first was a relative absence of injuries on the Rangers' blue line. Sanguinetti was called up to replace an injured Wade Redden
in late November, but that was the exception in a season when the team remained remarkably healthy.
"Over the last few years, we’ve been fortunate to not have any real major injuries on defense," said Gordie Clark, the Rangers' Director, Player Personnel. "Sometimes that's what it takes. You hate to say it, but sometimes somebody has to get injured for one of those guys to come up and play for a long period of time. That's when you really get your feet wet, and that just hasn't happened for any of them. Our defense as a whole has stayed pretty healthy."
While the Rangers were injury-free for most of the season, Sanguinetti wasn't. The other reason he missed a chance to skate more this past season stemmed from a high ankle sprain that cost him 15 games. He hurt the ankle in January, and it hampered him the rest of the way, even though he still managed to finish the season with a career-high nine goals. That number was less, however, than Sanguinetti had been targeting for himself.
"I got off to a hot start and had the call-up. Then I got sent back down and I got hurt," he said. "In terms of skating and carrying the puck up the ice, it kind of minimized me, and didn't let me play my game completely. But that's not an excuse. I didn't put up the numbers that I could have. It was just a tough year, but also a learning experience as far as making sure that when I do get sent down my game gets back to where it was before and just try to continue developing down there."
The timing of the injury, which is now fully healed, could not have been worse. Sanguinetti was coming off a big showing at the AHL All-Star Game, his second straight appearance there. In addition to the assist he recorded in the game, he also won the Fastest Skater competition with a record time of 13.677 seconds.
|Bobby Sanguinetti grew up rooting for the Rangers with his family at Madison Square Garden. On Nov. 30, 2009, he faced Pittsburgh in his first regular-season game for the Blueshirts on the Garden ice. |
Sanguinetti's ankle woes weren't the only pains suffered by the Pack in 2009-10, as overall health woes played a big role in Hartford's missing the playoffs.
"At one point, we had four or five defensemen out of the lineup at one time, and we also had guys going up and down during the Rangers' run to try to make the playoffs," said Sanguinetti. "I think that's what made it tough. It's hard when you're not getting that chemistry every night, and I think that probably one of the biggest problems that we ran into was the injuries."
Sanguinetti's speed and ability to move the puck were two things that attracted the Rangers scouts to him back in his draft year of 2005-06. With his great size for the NHL and the impressive skill he had displayed in a 65-point season with the OHL's Owen Sound Attack, the young defenseman seemed perfect for the post-lockout NHL.
"His puck-moving game is going to be what's going to get him there (the NHL)," Clark said.
Following his draft year, Sanguinetti continued to boost his stock with two outstanding OHL seasons. He put up 23 goals and 30 assists for Owen Sound in 2006-07 and 29 goals and 41 assists for Brampton in 2007-08 to lead all OHL defensemen in goals and place second in points. He also played for Team USA at the 2008 World Junior Championship tournament in the Czech Republic, scoring a goal and adding two assists in six games against world-class competition.
Called up to Hartford for five- and six-game runs after his junior season ended in 2007 and 2008, Sanguinetti became a full-time member of the Wolf Pack for the 2008-09 season and he has gone on to play a total of 150 regular-season games.
His first full professional season saw him score six goals and 42 points to lead Hartford defensemen in both points and assists. The rookie season also featured his first All-Star Game appearance. Last year, he raised his goals total and came within three points of his rookie year despite playing 17 fewer games.
Having proved himself at the AHL level and gotten a sample of the NHL last season, Sanguinetti will contend for a spot on the Rangers roster at training camp in September. Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather's recent announcement that all 23 roster spots will be up for grabs this fall gives Sanguinetti that much more determination as he knows that a strong performance in training camp can be the difference between starting the season in the AHL and NHL.
This will be Sanguinetti's fifth Rangers training camp, and he said the lesson he learned at the other four is to go all out offensively in his bid to make the team.
"I think I need to play my game and not worry about anything else but that," he said. "I think I have come into the past couple of camps holding back and not really doing what I can do best, and I think that's what's held me back. I think I'm ready to get over that hump and play with the confidence to come in and just play well."
Sanguinetti has a very clear vision of what his game can look like at the NHL level and he is eager to bring that vision to life.
"I want to be good at both ends of the ice, that's the main thing. But obviously my game is more on the offensive side of the ice where I am jumping into the play and making it a 4-on-3 or a 3-on-2. Just getting it up the ice," he said.
"I think that's what kind of held me back the past couple of years -- not playing that style and kind of sitting back and worrying about my defensive game too much. I think I'm going to come in and just play my game. Get up the ice and do whatever I can to help out on the offensive side and still be good defensively."