Travis Sanheim. PHOTO/NHL.com
By Robin Wark
Elkhorn’s Travis Sanheim sees a bright future for the Philadelphia Flyers – and he is certainly a part of it.
The son of Kent and Shelly Sanheim helped his National Hockey League squad compile a 41-21-7 record this past winter. The Flyers were 9-1 in their last 10 games and sat second in the Metropolitan Division when the NHL campaign was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2018-2019, the team went 37-37-8 and finished six in their division. When Sanheim, a defenceman, was asked what he enjoyed about this season, he said:
“I think just the group of guys and the way we’ve handled this season. Obviously, a new coaching staff and new systems. The way we’ve come together and grown together throughout the year was cool to see.”
Under new bench boss Alain Vigneault, Sanheim earned a role on the team’s second defensive pairing and posted a career-high average of 20:09 of ice time thanks in part to playing on both the penalty kill and powerplay. The 6-foot-3, 181-pound 24-year-old recorded eight goals and 25 points in 69 games.
“In a new system, under Alain Vigneault, he has improved in defensive-zone coverage and having an active stick to break up passing lanes and that improvement hasn't come at the cost of his offensive skill,” said Dave Isaac, who covers the Flyers for the Courier-Post newspaper. “When the NHL paused its season, Sanheim was one shy of his career high in goals and playing well on a pair with Phil Myers.”
In December against the New York Rangers, Sanheim had three points. Against the Boston Bruins in January, he lit the lamp twice, including the tying marker, to help the Flyers rally from a 5-2 deficit to win 6-5 in a shootout.
The 2019-2020 season was only Sanheim’s second “full” season at the NHL level. The former standout for the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen started his pro career in the American Hockey League with the Flyers’ top farm team, the Leigh Valley Phantoms, in 2016-2017. He split the next season between the Flyers and the Phantoms before playing all of 2018-2019 with Philadelphia. Of his second full season, Sanheim said:
“You get a lot more comfortable with the guys in the locker room. You know them a lot better. The same thing with the league. You are going against some of the high-end talent and you get familiar playing against some of those guys. Knowing that you are able to play every night, it’s fun to be a part of.”
Many Flyers observers foresee more strong seasons ahead for Sanheim. He was ranked fifth on the Winter/Spring 2020 25 under 25 countdown on the Broad Street Hockey website, which intensely covers the Flyers. Broad Street Hockey contributor Maddie Campbell had Sanheim ranked third on her list.
“I’m obviously really high on Sanheim, and I think what’s driving that is that fact that we’re already seeing that he has the most well-rounded skillset on the defence corps, with his offensive instincts being so distinct as well as the fact that they don’t come at the expense of the defensive side of his game. I also think that there’s still more to see from him.”
The community of Elkhorn has taken pride in Sanheim’s success. He has appreciated his hometown’s support.
“Obviously, coming from a small town, not many guys make it to the NHL,” Sanheim said. “It is a pretty cool experience. I’d like to think that my community and my family and friends have been a huge part in that. I’m thankful for everything they’ve done for me. I continue to talk to everyone back home. Especially in the offseason, I try to get back there as much as I can. I enjoy my time there and I’m thankful for everything that they’ve done for me.”