On June 22nd, the Toronto Maple Leafs held the 25th overall pick. With just seconds before the team was set to pick, Kyle Dubas made the call to trade the pick to the St. Louis Blues for the 29th overall pick and the 76th overall draft pick. The team ended up taking Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds defenceman Rasmus Sandin with the first round pick from St. Louis.
Rasmus Sandin Continues To Take Strides In The AHL
Everyone knows Kyle Dubas is a statistics guru, so it was no surprise that he traded the 25th overall pick for the 29th and 76th. By doing so, you give the team a higher chance of acquiring an NHL player with more picks. It makes sense when you break it down.
Since being drafted, Sandin has made quite the impression on fans, as well as Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe:
Keefe on Sandin: “He’s a good player. He’s very confident. He’s showing the ability to contribute in lots of different areas for us. We have confidence to put him out in different situations. It’s very positive, how he has progressed."
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) November 19, 2018
Sandin has continued to produce in his 11 game stretch for the Toronto Marlies this season, posting four goals and seven points as an 18-year-old rookie defenseman. There are very few defensemen to compare Sandin at this age because of the restrictions on players this young in the AHL, so it would be impractical to attempt to draw comparisons to him. That said, to be producing at this age at the AHL level is still incredibly impressive.
Improvements To His Game
Rasmus Sandin coming into the draft had a well-rounded game, but lots of scouts talked about how his skating left something to be desired. He was described as “a good but not great skater;” he has certainly improved upon that since joining the AHL.
Rasmus Sandin goes for a skate: pic.twitter.com/6D80QnsRsm
— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) December 1, 2018
Sandin goes end to end with many players on his back. He controls the puck extremely well and doesn’t get knocked off easily. This was also true for Sandin pre-draft, but to see him continue to do it a higher level is impressive. He plays like a defender much older than he is.
His offensive IQ and defensive stability result in fantastic plays at both ends of the ice. You can see his incredible strength as an 18-year-old in his puck battles in the corners that continuously proves successful. This is one of his clear strengths at this age. Even Mike Babcock was impressed with his showing at camp this season, dubbing him the nickname “Sandman.”
Thanks to Jeff Veillette‘s work this season with the Marlies, he has begun tracking stats like Corsi, zone usage and points per 60 for the Marlies that weren’t previously available. At 5 on 5 Sandin sports 55.7 percent Corsi-For. This number is impressive for Sandin, and though his deployment is primarily in the offensive zone. Though it seems as though he is being given sheltered starts, only 37 starts have been given to him in the offensive end and 122 on the fly. Sandin has also proved himself capable of powerplay time to Sheldon Keefe, playing primarily on the second unit, but occasionally stepping up to the top unit to play with Timothy Liljegren.
With the way he has performed at this level, don’t be shocked if Sandin is in the NHL even before fellow countryman Liljegren. Liljegren has produced admirably, and still projects to be an effective NHLer, but Sandin is already proving himself to be a step above. Further through the season, Sheldon Keefe should continue to give Sandin tougher minutes. This would include potentially penalty kill time, more defensive zone starts, and time at the end of the game to seal out a victory. Should he continue to succeed, Sandin could attempt to make the Leafs out of camp next year. Though it’s a long shot, Ron Hainsey and Jake Gardiner both have uncertain futures with the Leafs organization. Both these players are left-shot defensemen, though Hainsey often plays on the right side.
I can't get enough of Rasmus Sandin's all-around game.
Not only does he win the battle for the puck, but also makes a great pass to allow the Leafs to leave the zone with possession.
Such a smart player. pic.twitter.com/ZnAsav8Ndx
— Nick DeSouza (@NickDeSouza_) September 22, 2018