With the preseason now finished, the waiting begins for Zach Sanford who hopes he has shown enough to warrant a spot on the Capitals roster to start the season.
Based on what head coach Barry Trotz had to say following the Capitals' preseason finale on Sunday, Sanford won't have to wait very long.
Sanford has been a standout in training camp for the Caps and has almost certainly played his way onto the team after a stellar preseason in which he scored two goals and one assist.
Sanford said after Sunday's win over the New York Islanders that he was proud of what he has shown the team this preseason and he certainly should be.
A second-round pick in 2013, Sanford has spent the last two season playing college hockey for Boston College and signed an entry-level deal with the Caps over the summer.
The transition straight from college to the NHL is not an easy one to make. Even those who do make the NHL roster out of campoften get sent down to the AHL soon after as coaches hope to get them regular playing rather than keep them in the NHL lineup on a semi-regular basis.
Sanford has played so well to this point, however, that it may not be an issue.
"Based on his play, I don't know if he will be semi-regular," Trotz said. "I think he's regular the way he's played. That's good on him."
Sanford has shown a willingness to screen and fight for pucks in the crease. That is a style of play that physically, Sanford is well suited for given his 6-foot-4, 203-pound frame.
"Being the bigger guy you kind of have to do that stuff," Sanford said, "But you know I've learned to like it and I guess that's where most of the goals are scored so it's a good spot to have to go."
But it's not just Sanford's play in the offensive end of the ice that has caught Trotz's eye. The head coached talked at length about how much he feels he can trust Sanford in different situation, including when the team holds the lead.
"That's a big compliment to him," Trotz said. "Yeah, he can be trusted. Right now, I don't have any issues with that. When you have trust, it doesn't matter if the guy's 22 or 32. You have trust in players and they earn your trust."
What also helps is that Sanford may have already cemented a place in the lineup playing along side Lars Eller and Marcus Johansson.
The Sanford-Eller-Johansson line was one of the team's best on Sunday generating a goal for Eller and multiple scoring opportunities. More importantly, it has shown the versatility Trotz has been hoping to get out of that line after the team's offensive depth was exposed by Pittsburgh in the playoffs last season.
"You've got a little bit of size on that line," Trotz said, "You've got a little bit of weight, you've got some experience, you've got some speed, you've got some creativity and they're responsible defensively. That being said, that sounds like a pretty good line."
With 24 players currently on the roster, Trotz said the team will make their final cuts sometime in the next 24 hours. So now it's just a matter of time for Sanford as he waits to see if he will make the team.
But really, it sounds as if the decision has already been made.
"He's a hockey player," Trotz said. "That's the best way to describe him. He's a hockey player and I think the guys recognize that."
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