Building the Herd – Zach Sullivan

#11 Zach Sullivan

Position: Defence

Born: Redhill, Surrey, England

Announced as signed: Bison website 1st May


There seems to be a lot of in/out with Bison announcements at the moment; player leaves, club announces a returnee which has happened 3 times in a row. Following on from the news that Alex Symonds is off to Swindon and a few people jokingly wondering if Doug had signed anyone for the blueline, Coach Sheppard responded by announcing Zach Sullivan would return for a second season with the Bison.

Sullivan, who turns 19 in July burst onto the senior hockey scene in 2010/11 staring for the Invicta Dynamos in ENL 1 South. After starting 2011/12 in Kent, Sullivan’s confident and assured displays on the blueline saw him receive a call from then Slough Jets coach Doug Sheppard to step up to the EPL full time which he did with aplomb. Then only 17, Sullivan was an integral part of the Jets side that won the EPL playoffs, logging a fair amount of ice time and being used in critical situations. When Sheppard made the jump from Slough to Basingstoke, the GB under 18 and under 20 international followed, scoring 4 points and tallying just 20 PIMs in his first campaign for the Bison.

He has the ability and game craft well beyond his years and is another super returnee for the Bison.” – Bison press release

I don’t know who writes the Bison press releases but they excelled themselves with this one. They also rendered a chunk of what I was going to write largely redundant with one sentence but without labouring the point too much, one of the big strengths of Sullivan’s game is that he doesn’t play it like an 18 year old.

That’s not to try and do a disservice to young players but many of you will understand what I am getting at; learning on the job, making mistakes is all part of development as a hockey player but Sullivan doesn’t get many rushes of blood to the head. Maybe this is having played more senior hockey than other players his age having an impact and he is by no means a perfect player as he will likely be the first to tell you but how comfortable do you feel when Sullivan is on the ice? I venture a high percentage would respond positively to that question.

Taking age out of the equation altogether, Zach is a just a reliable stay at home defenceman who takes few penalties. 20 penalty minutes across a season works out to a minor penalty every 5.4 games if I’ve done my maths correctly. When you consider Sullivan’s ice time that’s a fantastic stat, showing that he can be trusted not to do daft things at crucial moments. He’s not high scoring but that’s not a big concern (though given Banners On The Wall protocol on defensive defencemen; if you want to turn into PK Subban and score lots of goals, Zach you go right ahead). The number one job of a defenceman is to defend. Secondary scoring is nice but Sullivan won’t be expected to cover that load.

As we don’t know who else will be on the blueline at the moment, it’s tough to see what role Sullivan will play. The easy guess is 2nd or 3rd defenceman depending on who else is signed but he will get used in a variety of situations and on a second powerplay unit assuming Sheppard tries a lineup that leads to a 4 or 5 forward powerplay again.

I like players like Zach Sullivan; solid, dependable, not overly flash but crucial to success. Sure I like the flashy players too but Sullivan’s game lends itself to the old saying about defenders that if you don’t notice them then they’re doing something right. At the business end of the season, much like Alex Symonds, Zach shone in the pressure situations. Sheppard called the playoff semi final the youngster’s best game of the campaign. He acknowledged in the press release announcing his return that there are things to work on but as the press release also said, a super returnee.

Welcome back Zach, repeat performances appreciated.


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