New Flyers GM Ron Hextall pulled one from out of left field in making a first-round selection for the Orange and Black.
All eyes were on a trio of talented forwards: Kasperi Kapanen, Alex Tuch and Adrian Kempe. The Flyers went with a defenseman and an unlikely one at that.
The selection at 17th overall was 6'3", 181-pound blue-liner Travis Sanheim of the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL. Here is more on the Flyers first-round pick.
Here's a start: Sanheim is a distant relative of Ron Hextall. There is a connection between the Sanheim and Hextall families, which Sanheim even said he didn't think would play into his final destination.
The 18-year-old, Elkhorn, Manitoba native was ranked 53rd among skaters coming into the draft class. His stock had climbed over 100 positions from the mid-term rankings, but obviously this was a surprise pick.
However, the pick drew praise.
Size is always a big thing with defensemen, but it's how they use their size on the ice in defending that makes all the difference. In the U18 World Juniors, opposing coaches were calling Sanheim one of Canada's top three players. Ultimately, those seven games helped raise his draft stock further, with some thinking he had a chance at a first-round selection.
Sanheim had good success in one-on-one spots, using his 6'3" frame to play the man and a long stick to take away the passing lanes. He was considered an excellent skater with great two-way speed. If there's one thing the Flyers have lacked on the blue line, it's good acceleration on the defensive end. By early accounts, Sanheim will bring that to the Orange and Black.
He is also a solid shot-blocker, getting in the shooting lanes. For a player that was far off the radar, he possesses the skill set of an all-around defenseman.
And that's before we talk offense.
With Calgary, Sanheim scored five goals and added 24 assists for 29 points in 67 games. He also posted six assists – which helped him tie for the team lead in points – in seven games with the U18 World Junior team.
Put the numbers aside, because based on what scouts are saying, offensively, Sanheim is just scratching the surface. And when you watch video of him, his speed is dazzling. He's an amazing puck carrier from zone to zone. He doesn't lead many rushes, but for outlet play, he'll certainly be an upgrade.
He started to get use on the power play and did fairly well there. He doesn't have a powerful shot from the blue line, but can open up shooting lanes with his good skating ability, so a power-play role still benefits him. If anything, he's a pass-first kind of player with great vision and the ability to make passes based on reading the defense.
His style has been compared to Jay Bouwmeester.
Overall, Sanheim projects to be a top-four defenseman with a special teams role. He can play some power play, definitely has a place on penalty kill and can take on a significant amount of ice time if the role calls for it.
Kevin Durso is the lead beat writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @KDursoPhilsNet.