Back on February 27, 2017, the St. Louis Blues traded notable defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to the Washington Capitals for a first round pick, conditional second round pick, and prospect Zach Sanford. Sanford at the time was 22 years old and amidst his first NHL season. Up until Sanford being dealt to the Blues at the 2017 trade deadline, the rookie struggled, netting just two goals and one assist in 26 games with the Capitals. After becoming a Blue, Sanford saw action in 13 games, where he would net two goals and three assists for a total of five points. The Blues made the playoffs and Sanford played in four of the teams 11 playoff games. The future for Sanford in a Blues sweater was looking bright. Then came September 15, 2017.
The Blues were holding their first practice of training camp for the 2017-18 season. The Blues were conducting some boards play/movement drills. Blues center Paul Stastny threw the puck into the left corner of the zone, Sanford went to corral the puck, and was leveled into the boards by forward Dmitrij Jaskin. The video of the play can be seen below:
One day after the incident, the Blues announced that Sanford would be expected to just miss a few weeks with a shoulder injury. It had seemed like Sanford and the Blues had caught a break on this one. But the following week, the Blues made an announcement stating that Sanford had a dislocated shoulder and would need surgery, sidelining him for at least 5-6 months.
Sanford would rehab the injury, and later be sent to the Blues AHL affiliate San Antonio Rampage to resume game action. Sanford would play 20 games for the Rampage during the 2017-18 season and scored four goals and added three assists. He would not make an appearance in the NHL during this season.
Heading into the 2018-19 season, Sanford did not gain much hype among the media or fans during training camp. The Blues were anticipating high end prospects Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas making the team, which they eventually did. The majority of the excitement was surrounding them. Sanford did not make the Blues opening night squad, and was sent down to San Antonio on October 2nd, two days before the Blues first game.
But the Blues had an egregious slow start to the season. The team was having no issues scoring goals, as they were averaging three goals a game, yet were still 1-2-2 after the first five games of the season. In attempt to shake some things up, the Blues called up Sanford on October 16th. What Sanford has done since has been a pleasant surprise thus far for the Blues.
Sanford has played in five games now for the St. Louis Blues, where he has scored three goals and tallied three assists for a total of six points. He is currently rolling on a four-game point streak, and the only game he has played in and not recorded a point was his first game of the season against the Montreal Canadiens on October 27th.
Sanford’s skill was put on full display just two nights ago, as he tallied one goal and two assists in a 7-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blues scored just 18 seconds into the game on a Ryan O’Reilly goal through a beautiful feed from Sanford. Just five minutes later, with the game tied 1-1, Sanford buried the puck past Hawks goaltender Corey Crawford after great plays were made from his linemates O’Reilly and David Perron. The line pairing of these three has been clicking for the Blues over the past few games and will certainly be seeing a lot more time together as the Blues march forward through the November schedule.
Sanford feeds Ryan O’Reilly 18 seconds into the game to give the #stlblues a 1-0 lead. https://t.co/q5Yb2wiXJI
The O’Reilly-Perron-Sanford connection strikes again … Zach Sanford taps it in. 2-1 #stlblues https://t.co/ajyEzWHewI
Nonetheless, Zach Sanford currently has all the looks of being a mainstay on the Blues roster. Not only is he getting the job done offensively, Sanford has been making solid plays in the defensive end as well. He has matured rapidly, and it has shown on the ice in just the five games he has played, as he is playing a complete 200-foot game. The Blues have desperately needed better defense from both their defensemen and forwards and Sanford has helped supply some of that these last few games. It has just been a five-game sample here in 2018, but Sanford’s progress has surprised some who were left wondering after his short time with the Blues during the 2016-17 season. Sanford has been one of the Blues’ best players over the last couple weeks and will undoubtedly keep finding himself in the lineup with the way he has been producing on both ends.