Elkhorn’s Travis Sanheim has been rewarded for a strong second season in the National Hockey League.
The Philadelphia Flyers defenceman more than tripled his points total from his rookie season, earned a spot in the lineup for all 82 games, and increased his average ice time by a whopping 3:59 minutes. The 23-year-old son of Kent and Shelley Sanheim earned a two-year contract extension and won the team’s most improved player award.
“I think this season was a step forward and something I wanted to do coming into this season,” Sanheim said. “I developed my game, took that step, and grew it. I took on a significant role in the second half and played big minutes in all situations.”
In his rookie season, 2017-2018, Sanheim split time between the Flyers and their top affiliate, the Allentown, Penn.-based Lehigh Valley Phantoms. In 49 games with the Flyers that season, Sanheim had two goals and 10 points. This past winter he far surpassed those marks with nine goals and 35 points. Sanheim was second among Flyers blue liners in points and recorded two game-winning goals.
“My offensive game has always been something I do well,” he said. “It sometimes takes me a while at each level to show that side of me. With it being my second year and playing a more significant role and more situations, it allowed me to bring that side out and take chances, and, in saying that, making better reads and understanding when the chances are there and the opportunities to create that offense.”
It was not just his offensive numbers that improved. The Broad Street Hockey website (dedicated to Flyers coverage) stated that “when Sanheim was on the ice this season, the opposition took an abundance of shots from the outside rather than from dangerous scoring areas. The overall number of shots against didn’t change much, but the quality dissipated whenever he took the ice.”
A former Yellowhead Chiefs U-18 player, Sanheim competed for three seasons in the Western Hockey League with the Calgary Hitmen, where his twin brother Taylor was a teammate for two years. As a first-year pro, Sanheim developed his game with the Phantoms. In his second pro season, Sanheim not only saw regular season time but also postseason action with both the Flyers and Phantoms.
“It’s another level,” he said of the playoffs. “With the Flyers, it was my first taste of the Stanley Cup playoffs. It was such a cool experience, learning what it takes to win at that level, the effort you need every game, and what a battle and grind it is to move forward, whether it be the NHL or AHL playoffs.”
Unfortunately, the Flyers were unable to earn a postseason berth this past season. However, the organization was impressed with Sanheim’s performance and potential. He recently was inked to a two-year contract extension that will pay him an average of $3.25 million per season.
"We are very pleased with the progress Travis has made in his young career," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said in a media release. "He is a skilled, two-way defenceman with excellent size and mobility. He is a big part of our present and our future."
Sanheim’s development was also noticed by his teammates. They voted him the winner of the Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy as the team’s most improved player.
“Obviously, it’s an award that is voted on by your teammates. … What I said earlier, taking a step forward this season, and for them to recognize that and see that strong play that I thought I did this season was a cool accomplishment,” Sanheim said.
Another group soundly in Sanheim’s corner is his supportive family.
“They’ve been along the journey and the ride,” he said. “They are going to continue to be there for me and to support me. My parents especially come and watch so many games. Family back home are watching me pretty much every night. Just the support I get from them, my family, my community, I am very grateful. I wouldn’t want to come from any other place.”