Bobby Sanguinetti is a player who has fallen on tough luck during his time in the pros. After being a first round selection by the New York Rangers in the 2006 NHL Draft and being an offensive stud during junior hockey, he has yet to make any sort of impact in the NHL. Part of the reason for this is because his game is pretty one-dimensional. As an offensive defenseman, Sanguinetti’s main roles are quarterbacking the powerplay, moving the puck through the neutral zone and jumping into the play to create chances. He is skilled in all of these qualities but his play in the defensive zone hasn’t quite developed at the rate that most scouts were hoping. Still, most teams always seem to have room for players like Sanguinetti, so why hasn’t he played more than three total games in the NHL? The reason is that every organization he has been a part of have players who are like Sanguinetti, but superior to him.
Look at the Rangers’ 2009-10 squad when Sanguinetti was a 20-21 year old and had a reasonable chance to make the team out of camp. He was one of their better defensive prospects at the time, but he failed to secure a roster spot and was beaten out by the likes of Michael Del Zotto and Matt Gilroy. With those two plus Wade Redden and Michael Rozsival, the Rangers had enough offensive-minded defensemen on the team and Sanguinetti just wasn’t good enough to make the final cut. His shortcomings in the defensive zone and poor decision making led to him falling out of favor with the coaching staff in New York and Rutherford was able to acquire him in exchange for one of Carolina’s second round picks.
Sanguinetti had his problems with the Rangers but he was also in his early 20′s at the time and not every defenseman can pick up the game as quickly as some would hope. Plus, he was not going to ascend much in the Rangers system with the high volume of defensive prospects they have, so a change of scenery was probably best for both parties involved. How has this move worked out for him? So far, it hasn’t been too bad. He hasn’t seen much NHL action, but he became one of the Checkers top defensemen last season, which could really help him work his way up in Carolina’s rankings. Sanguinetti was injured for most of his first season in Charlotte but he really stepped up his game last season with 10 goals and 50 points in 60 games, placing him second on the Checkers in points.
This was the kind of offensive firepower that most people were expecting from Sanguinetti since his junior years as he was a vital part of the Checkers powerplay. He scored scored seven of his goals with the man advantage and his terrific puck-moving skills proved to be a huge asset for Charlotte’s even strength play, as well. Sanguinetti also possesses a very good shot from the point and opposing teams have learned that the hard way more than a few times. His decision making has also improved a lot over the last year as he made fewer careless turnovers last season and seems to know when to jump into the play and when not to. That will be very important if he wants to make it to the next level.
That being said, Sanguinetti still plays a high-risk game and is prone to the occasional blunder in the defensive zone. He also finished the year as a -12 in Charlotte despite being nearly a point-per-game player and that tells me a few things. Either he tallied more points on the powerplay than I remember (which is possible given that seven of his ten goals were PPG’s), he was on ice for a lot of even strength goals against or the Checkers goalies couldn’t stop a beach ball when he was on the ice. It was likely a combination of all three because while Sanguinetti was not a complete defensive liability, he definitely had a lot of trouble when it came to battling against forwards in the defensive zone. He is still in his early 20′s, so there is always room for improvement but the fact of the matter is that Sanguinetti is likely going to remain an offensive-minded player for the rest of his career. That is where is his most skilled and he will be more successful in the NHL if he is utilized in this fashion.
However, Sanguinetti could have trouble making the Hurricanes next season for this exact same reason. I mentioned earlier that his great year with the Checkers might lead to him being higher on the totem pole than he was before, but he is in a similar situation to where he was with the Rangers a few years before. With Joni Pitkanen, Jamie McBain, Justin Faulk, Joe Corvo, Ryan Murphy and Marc-Andre Gragnani all looking for spots on the Hurricanes next year, it’s hard to find a place for Sanguinetti because there are just too many offensive-minded guys there and Sangs has to do something to make himself stand out among the pack. He is also not exempt from waivers, so the Canes are going to run the risk of losing him to another organization if he doesn’t make the team out of camp. There are always a lot of good players who manage to pass through waivers with no issue but it’s still a risk to take given how important of a player Sanguinetti is to Charlotte.
There are NHL teams who could find use in a player like Sanguinetti and I’m sure that he got the coaching staff’s attention with the year he had with the Checkers, but Sanguinetti needs to go above and beyond to make the Hurricanes out of camp this year. When I say that, I mean he needs to have a more well-rounded game and be more than just an offensive force because they have enough players on the prospective roster to assume that role for next season. Also, if Sanguinetti is still only a borderline third pairing defenseman in the NHL this season, then he is probably better off playing bigger minutes in Charlotte. The only issue here is that the Hurricanes can’t call him up without exposing him to waivers unless it’s an emergency recall, so he’ll likely be stuck there. That will make the final roster cuts in training camp very interesting.
Regardless, Sanguinetti should have a future in the NHL but it’s tough to tell if that he will be with the Hurricanes when his time eventually comes.