When the Washington Capitals sent rookie Zach Sanford down to the American Hockey League at the end of November, it was to get him more playing time, with hope that a stint with the Hershey Bears would help Sanford rediscover his scoring touch and get some confidence.
But since the Capitals recalled Sanford before the holiday roster freeze, he’s played in one game and been a healthy scratch for two. Even though Sanford has spent the majority of this second stint with Washington out of the lineup, the Capitals still think this time back with the big club has been good for his development. The Bears had an entire week off, so Sanford would’ve been off the ice, whereas Washington’s break was just three days.
“He’s on the ice,” Coach Barry Trotz said last week. “He’s seeing what we’re doing, just taking in that whole process. I think it’s good. Right now, if he was in Hershey, he wouldn’t be skating. He’d be at home, and I think there’s more benefit for him to be here. We feel that if a certain role opens up, that’s where he’ll go in.”
Drafted by the Capitals in the second round, 61st overall, in 2013, Sanford signed with Washington this summer after he played at Boston College for two seasons. He made the opening night roster, but in 19 games, he scored just one point, an assist. Washington then decided to send him in Hershey, a setting in which they felt he could be productive and perhaps regain his confidence.
It took Sanford some time to adjust to a different style of play, one not as crisp as that of the NHL, but, playing with Brad Malone and Nathan Walker, Sanford scored four goals and added three assists in six games. He was recalled before the Capitals’ game against Montreal on Dec. 17, and he played 9:26. After the game, Trotz said Sanford was “fine,” adding that Sanford didn’t “wow” him.
Sanford will be on the roster at least until Wednesday, when the roster freeze ends. After that, the plan for his immediate future is still up in the air.
“It’s sort of a game-to-game plan, based on our needs,” Trotz said. “It’s based on if I know I’m not going to have him in for a game or two right after Christmas, then the best thing, because there’s a bulk of game for us and Hershey, is that I get him playing, keep him playing. We’ll decide that after Christmas.”