Welcome back! This week, we’re focusing on the awards given out to the team’s top defense and goaltending prospects this season. First up is Best Defenseman.
Between the NHL, AHL, and the NCAA, there were quite a few standouts, which is to be expected when you’ve got a former first-round pick from each of the last four drafts in your system. Speaking of which, let’s meet the nominees!
Jacob Bernard-Docker: The 26th overall pick of the 2018 NHL draft may not have been an offensive superstar this past year, but he did cement himself as one of the best defensemen in his conference, earning a spot on the Second All-NCHC team as well as being named the NCHC Defensive Defenseman of the Year.
Erik Brännström: Finishing third in voting for Most Improved Prospect, the 15th pick of the 2017 NHL draft has completed a successful sophomore campaign, highlighted by a career offensive season and a stable partnership with *the* Artem Zub down the stretch. Can he repeat last year’s honour?
Another strong rush by Brannstrom. pic.twitter.com/N3MDxPB6qd— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) March 25, 2021
Jake Sanderson: After being selected 5th overall in 2020, Sanderson took the NCAA by storm, scoring 15 points in 22 games in his freshman season with UND. That’s comparable production to Cale Makar’s first year in college, so I’d say the pick is looking really good so far.
Jake Sanderson has been the best player on the ice tonight. Another example of his fantastic skating ability- this time, drawing a penalty.— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) March 17, 2021
Pinto won the draw to start this play. He's 12-7 in the circle this evening #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/iYWmLADqQh
With 45.9% of the vote, the award for Best Defenseman goes to...
Erik Brännström claims Best Defenceman once again! That makes two awards with the same winner in back-to-back years, three if you take into account the reader vote for Biggest Disappointment last year. Ultimately, Brännström’s advantage here was the bigger stage that comes with playing NHL games. Sanderson may have dominated at the college level and played a key role on Team USA at the World Juniors, but Brännström taking a large step forward offensively with 13 points in 30 games definitely helped his case.
Brännström saw his ice time increase after the trade deadline; after playing under 20 minutes a game, he logged between 20 and 25 in each of his last five games, along with his first-career multi-point game on May 5th against the Edmonton Oilers. Remember, he’s still just twenty-one years old. He’s still got a long development path ahead of him. That said, is the coaching staff ready to trust him fully, or will they try to bring in additional help for the left point? We’re getting closer to finding out!
Stay tuned; we’ve got the award for Best Goaltender coming on Thursday!
Voting Breakdown: Brännström (45.9%), Sanderson (33.6%), Bernard-Docker (18.5%), Others (<1%)