Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Better Know a Devils' Prospect: Steve Santini

Today is going to be a shorter post, but I wanted to help give a better idea of who Steve Santini is, how his game is played, and what type of player he projects to be.
Basic Information:
Steve Santini is a 6'2" 208 pound right-defenseman (right-handed shot) from Mahopac, New York. He comes from a strongly supportive Rangers family that apparently quickly crossed the river, support-wise when the Devils drafted him 42nd overall (2nd round) in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
As many of you may or may not know, Santini's game is almost purely defensive. If you look at his statline on his Elite Prospects page, you can see just that, but as many of us are aware, a player's value, especially a defenseman, is not limited to the basic statline they put up.
Before Santini was even drafted, he was heralded as the best defenseman for the USNDP all season and throughout international tournament play. This includes when he was named the best defenseman of the 2013 IIHF U18 World Championship. Since his drafting, his offensive game has steadily developed, but has not flourished yet. I don't think it really will ever come to "flourish" so to speak, but he is much more willing to join in the rush when transitioning through the neutral zone.
Santini's defensive game is second to none out of the entire 2013 draft class. I know that's saying a lot, especially considering Seth Jones was the first defenseman taken that year (4th overall), but Jones brought a stronger all-around game, while Santini is an absolute rock in his own zone.
So how does Santini play his game in his own zone? I'm sure those who know Santini's game are smiling as they get to this part, but I will address that a little later. Santini's defensive game is incredibly strong in terms of positional play. He's your typical stay-at-home defenseman that parks himself in front of the net and clears out forwards from the crease area.
However, that is not all the Santini is able to in his zone.
Yes, there's a lot of Scott Stevens' game in Santini, mainly the defensive excellent, bone-crunching hits, and all-around physical willingness. A modern player comparison (in stylistic terms only) would be Dan Girardi of the New York Rangers or Brooks Orpik of the Washington Capitals.
Santini has spent the past two seasons developing his game at Boston College of the NCAA. He will be returning for the 2015-2016 season, and he will be named "Alternate captain" as well. He spent some time on the top defensive pairing at BC, playing with top 2015 pick, Noah Hanifin, for some time, but was bumped down to second pairing, as Ian McCoshen stepped up with better offensive production. This is not necessarily a bad thing, moreso just a show to how Santini's offensive production will not be a part of what Santini brings to the NHL.
Santini ran into a bit of pretty bad luck this season, injuring his wrist, requiring surgical pins to be placed for repair. This caused him to miss 2-3 months of play. Unfortunately, this also caused him to miss the World Junior Championship in December. Santini, if he had not been injured, was not only a lock for making Team USA, but most likely would have been the captain of the squad, and in my opinion would have been one of, if not, the best defenseman of the entire tournament.
I see Santini making a strong push at development camp this year and will return to Boston College for another season. The big question will be whether or not he is able to step into the NHL after next season. Since we are in no rush to get Santini into the NHL because of our strong and young defensive core, Santini may need a year of development in the AHL. This will only help him, in my opinion.
I am comfortable in saying Steve Santini is our second-best prospect (after Zacha), and our best defensive prospect. Our future is extremely bright with Santini.
If there's anything I can request from us, the fans is this:
I know we have been searching for the next Scott Stevens ever since the Great Captain retired...we thought we had found it in Matt Corrente and some think we may have found it in Santini. Stevens' legacy stands out as much greater than his ability to hit, but that is a common thread we have found in Santini. I would only ask that, like Cory, we allow Santini to establish his own legacy on the blueline and not constantly compare him to one of our great players of the past.
If you liked what you read, follow me on Twitter @DTJ_AHockeyBlog so we can chat, or feel free to DM me! I'll be more than happy to talk.
Thank you so much for reading. I hope you enjoyed this!

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