The “12 Days of Christmas” is a classic holiday song first published in its current form in 1908. In a nod to the classic carol, join The Hockey Writers as we count down the 12 Days of Hockeymas. Each day, we will provide you with a piece of hockey history as we eagerly await the start of the 2020-21 NHL season.
We start off the St. Louis Blues’ countdown with a potential breakout season to come from Zach Sanford. He already has a great season in 2019-20 for his expectations, but he could be even better in the season to come.
How Sanford Got to St. Louis
During the NHL Trade Deadline during the 2016-17 trade, the Blues traded Kevin Shattenkirk and Pheonix Copley to the Washington Capitals in exchange for Sanford, Brad Malone, a 2017 first-round pick and a conditional second-round pick in the same draft.
Sanford was drafted in 2013 by the Capitals, he played for the Waterloo Black Hawks in the United States Hockey League (USHL) and then played two seasons at Boston College. He only saw 26 games in 2016-17 with the Capitals, scoring just three points.
He had a strong finish to the 2016-17 season after the trade. In 13 games with the Blues, he scored three goals and two assists for five points. He played four playoff games in 2017 as well, getting his first taste of postseason hockey.
He spent all of 2017-18 in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the San Antonio Rampage where he scored seven points in 20 games. He got off to a hot start in 2018-19 with six points in the first seven games for the Rampage.
He got the call-up with the Blues and never looked back. He tallied eight goals and 12 assists in 60 games for the team. He came on during the 2019 Stanley Cup Final with a goal and three helpers over the seven-game series.
Sanford, a New England-born winger won the Cup against his favorite childhood team, the Boston Bruins.
He scored the fourth and final goal in Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final after a nifty pass by David Perron. One important factor of Sanford’s Cup success was his ability to form chemistry with Perron and Ryan O’Reilly. It certainly carried over to the 2019-20 season.
Taking a Step Forward in 2019-20
Sanford took a huge step forward during the 2019-20 season and a lot of it came from his chemistry with the majority of the forward group.
He doubled his goal total of 2018-19 in fewer games, tallying 16 of them in 58 games. He also had 14 assists for a total of 30 points, that is over a point per every two games.
He played the majority of the season with O’Reilly and Perron as they became the most important line for the Blues last season. He did most of his damage at even-strength as well.
Sanford stepped up his physical play with 109 hits, which is 61 more than he had in 2018-19. His signature game was on Feb. 12, 2020, against the Vegas Golden Knights, where he scored four goals in a losing effort.
With his size, skill and chemistry with his teammates, there is more to come with him.
A Potential 2020-21 Breakout Player
You may think that 2019-20 was the big breakout year for Sanford, but I think there is even more untapped scoring than the 16 he had last season.
I see no reason as to why Sanford can’t score 20 goals or more in a full season, while the 2020-21 season will not be a full one, he can still produce at a high level.
If the season is around 56 games as is being rumored, that obviously prevents guys from being able to score 50 goals, but it doesn’t stop them from producing consistently.
In the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, they played 48 games and the leading goal scorer was Alex Ovechkin with 32. He was the only player to surpass the 30-goal mark for that season.
Sanford could score 20 goals in 56 games with the right situation, meaning he would need some power-play minutes and the ability to stay on the line with O’Reilly and Perron.
Blues’ fans need to watch for this to happen, I know a lot of them wanted the club to pull the trigger on a trade moving Sanford while his value was at its peak, but I am glad they didn’t do that.
He’s a good player who is still fairly young and fits in well with the group as a physical forward that scores goals. The 2020-21 season could be a breakout one for Sanford as he tries to reach the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career.