Seven Capitals played their first season as professionals in North America in 2015-16. For a while, it looked as though 2015 draftee Jonas Siegenthaler and free agent signees Adam Carlson and Tim McGauley might comprise the list of Capitals prospects to embark upon their pro voyages in 2016-17, but Monday’s news of the signing of Boston College forward Zach Sanford adds yet another name to that list.
The 21-year-old Sanford signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Capitals on Monday, forgoing his junior and senior years at B.C. and opting instead to start his pro career this fall.
Sanford, a native of Auburn, N.H., was Washington’s second-round (61
st overall) choice in the 2013 NHL Draft. Thirty-five of the 60 players chosen ahead of Sanford in that draft have already made their NHL debuts.
Sanford was in Arlington just over a week ago for Washington’s annual summer development camp. He finished his sophomore season at B.C. last spring, totaling 13 goals and 39 points in 41 games for the Eagles after a freshman campaign in which he posted seven goals and 24 points in 38 contests.
In the wake of this summer’s development camp – Sanford’s fourth since he was drafted – Caps general manager Brian MacLellan spoke to reporters on a variety of different topics. In a conversation with Dump ‘n Chase earlier that day, MacLellan mentioned that the Capitals were planning on using their 14
th forward slot as a spot for a young forward, possibly on a rotational basis.
Asked whether the Caps were finished signing NHL-level free agents this summer, this was MacLellan’s reply:
“We might kick tires [on other unrestricted free agents]. The plan so far has been to have a spot for one of our young guys. Right now, we have 13 forwards with [Stanislav] Galiev. So the 14
th forward, we could bring guys up, send guys down. We’ve got young guys in Hershey who need opportunity and need games. The plan right now would be to use that [14
th forward] spot for that, unless something really attractive falls our way for a really low salary. We could shift gears then, but right now we’re leaving a spot for young guys.
“If we want to see [Jakub] Vrana a little bit, or have him with the NHL team a little bit, we could bring him up. We could bring up [Zach] Sill, we could try [Riley] Barber or [Travis] Boyd, some others. We want to get guys some games, if it’s possible, or just give them time up here, too. They could sit out, they could practice, they could watch, they could learn. It’s a development spot for us.
“They’ve all earned the chance. To throw another guy in there that’s a fourth-liner or a depth guy, that takes the opportunity away. Plus I think they’re all ready, to some extent. I don’t know that they’re ready full-time, but they should be rewarded with [NHL] games. From the beginning of the year to the end of the year, there was growth in all of our [Hershey] players. It was kind of fun to watch.”
Depending upon how well he performs in the Florida rookie tournament in September and especially in Washington’s 2016 training camp, Sanford also figures to be at least in the mix for a look-see in that 14
th forward slot as well.
In 2014-15, the Caps brought forwards Andre Burakovsky, Liam O'Brien, Chandler Stephenson and Nathan Walker into the organization. If Siegenthaler plays the '16-17 season in North America, the Capitals will have a total of 15 players - roughly a third of the pro level of the overall organization - coming into the North American pro ranks over a three-season span.