Kyle Dubas addressed the media after Day 1 of the 2018 NHL Draft, discussing the team’s selection of Rasmus Sandin 29th overall after trading down in the order.
The first thing everyone looks at is that the guy who used to be the GM of the Soo picks the guy from the Soo, but you took the best player you thought was on the board. Was there any familiarity there with going with what you know?
Dubas: Well, we took the player that our scouts had as the best player on our board. They’re the ones that do the work all year in the rinks from September through the end of May, basically, when they kick them out. He was the player that our scouts had rated as the top guy. Of course, playing in the Soo allows me some greater familiarity and some greater insights into people. We are fortunate in that regard. We are just happy that we got a guy that we wanted, regardless of where he played.
What did you like about him?
Dubas: For me, personally, having had a chance to watch him, what I liked about him is that I think he plays the position the way we want it to be played. He defends very, very well. He had to defend some very difficult minutes, especially as they had injuries as the playoffs went along. But he did that the whole season. He moves the puck extremely well. As it went on through the season especially, his competitiveness showed better and better. He was just an all-around defenseman that we were very, very happy with. That is what we were happy about with Rasmus.
Why were you confident that he would be there at 29th?
Dubas: It wasn’t just him. We took into account our staff and the players that we had. I consulted with them — with Tim, John, Ari and Lindsay — and said, “here is what we can do. We can gain another asset. St. Louis wants to move up.” Doug called back and said he’d do the deal. We were confident that one of the players we wanted would be there. That allowed us to have another pick tomorrow in the third round, which we wanted to do. We were content with that.
Is there a Travis Dermott comparison? 5’11, 190, very calm under pressure in his own zone. Is that a reach at all?
Dubas: If he ends up where Travis is at this point, we would certainly be content if the comparison came true. But he’s his own person and player. He is a season younger. Travis is a late birthday, so he was picked at the end of his 18-year-old season. Rasmus is a year younger. I know that that gets skewed with the late birthdays and whatnot. We feel he has two years of runway left in junior. Travis only had one when we picked him. We are generally excited to get him and think, certainly, on offense and continuing to get stronger and continuing to improve his skating, he is going to be a very good player for us.
What impressed you in interviews you had with him?
Dubas: The one thing you always like in interviews is you like someone to be themselves. You like them to show their character a little bit. He was very open and honest with what he needs to work on. That always make you content when you’re drafting a player — that they have an idea of what they are going to need to work on as they continue to develop. That puts you a little bit more at ease.
I knew about his character from the staff in the Soo. They raved about him. Nothing negative whatsoever. That was positive.
Since he is on loan from Sweden, he could play in the SHL, he could play junior, or he could play with the Marlies. What are you thinking right now?
Dubas: That will be a September decision. Obviously, there is a comfort with his junior team and he has developed very well there for the year. We’ll see where he’s at and decide that then. To me, it’s something that we’ll bring him into development camp next week and see how he does, and continue to have him in the summer and the rookie tournament, and then we’ll roll from there.
What does he need to work on?
Dubas: I think the key thing with all of these guys that we draft is that they’re young. You see him walk to the stage and he’s still a skinny defenseman. We’re excited that he can add to his frame. He’s 190 pounds and we think he can continue to get stronger. We don’t really look at it and say, “He has to put on an X amount of weight,” but I think just his strength and continuing to work on his speed would be positive. That’s what we’ll look for with him, for sure.
It’s the second time in two years the team has taken a Swede on D. How would you compare them?
Dubas: Liljegren came from pro hockey and they really had very different seasons. Liljegren last year was rated very high to start the year and then had mono and had his season disrupted. Liljegren is just a little bit further ahead with his progress because he’s played pro. Rasmus actually played a few games of pro at the beginning of the season for the same team that Liljegren was with. Both were with the same program with Rogle. We’re excited about both. One is left hand and one is right hand. They’re different. We’re excited about both.
Was his acclimation to North American fairly quick?
Dubas: I thought so. In watching the Soo play throughout, I thought he adapted quickly. The key thing was he adapted and then he got better and better. Especially in the playoffs. You don’t base it all on the most recent games that you watch, but he did continue to improve, especially in the playoffs, when he had to log some big minutes due to injuries. That was very, very impressive.
How would you compare the Rasmuses?
Dubas: Well, we’re happy with the Rasmus we have and that’s the only we control, so we’ll take him and develop him and move on.