After flipping picks with the St. Louis Blues (25 for 29 & 76), with the 29th overall draft selection in the 2018 NHL Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs selected left-handed Swedish defenseman Rasmus Sandin from the Soo Greyhounds.
The familiarity factor is obvious here; Kyle Dubas has very much remained a part of the Greyhounds family after leaving the organization in 2014.
The Leafs GM tipped his hand on this pick last week on the air with Jamies Duthie on TSN, saying of Craig Button’s projected pick of Sandin for the Leafs, “He plays defense the way I like it to be played – very, very good with the puck, skates very well. In the playoffs for the Soo, he took his game physically to another level and showed a great level of competitiveness in addition to his skillset. If Craig were the GM of the Leafs and he made that pick, it’d be a good pick.”
Sandin was drafted out of Sweden via the 2017 import draft and started the season in the SHL with Rogle BK (one assist in five games). Once the Greyhounds brought him overseas on loan, his game grew leaps and bounds throughout the OHL season. He finished his rookie year with 45 points in 51 regular season games — with 29 coming at even strength — and took on big responsibility for the Soo with Conor Timmins either away competing at the World Juniors or missing time through injury (as well as an expanded role in the playoffs when injuries struck). With Timmons away at the WJCs, Sandin earned rookie of the month honours in the month of December.
Sandin finished first in points among OHL rookie defensemen, third among U18 defensemen behind Ryan Merkley and Evan Bouchard, and ninth among U19 defensemen.
A smooth-skating, cerebral, puck-moving defenseman, Sandin’s mobility and intelligence also manifests itself in good gaps and a good stick defensively — his ability to prevent controlled entries against grades as elite among OHL competition. At 5’11, 188 pounds, he’ll need to add bulk and strength to withstand the rigours of the pro game, but his improved competitiveness and unwillingness to shy away in physical battles earned plaudits from scouts down the stretch and particularly during the Soo’s playoff run.
There is some debate as to just how high Sandin’s ceiling is, and whether he is more well-rounded than he is known for any one standout skill. But his rookie season was impressive and the Leafs are betting his game will take off to another level with a year of North American experience under his belt when given expanded opportunity in his sophomore year, including top-unit power play time — that is assuming he stays in the Soo, as he is under contract with Rogle in the SHL and joined the Greyhounds on loan this season (Because he’s an import, all options are on the table in the next two years: Have Sandin stay in the CHL for two years, go to Sweden for one or both years, or join the Marlies).
The roundedness of Sandin’s two-way game shows well by the advanced metrics comparing him with 21st overall pick (SJ) Ryan Merkley:
After the @MapleLeafs first round pick, General Manager @kyledubas spoke to @Sportsnet.#NHLDraft | #TMLTalk pic.twitter.com/laCggIPCvP
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) June 23, 2018
Sandin’s pre-draft rankings:
- Chris Peters, ESPN – 20th
- McKeen’s Hockey – 23rd
- Hockey Prospect – 30th
- Craig Button -15th
- Future Considerations – 19th
- Sam Consentino, Sportsnet – 25th
- Jeff Marek, Sportsnet – 20th
Rasmus Sandin Scouting Report
Courtesy of the 2018 NHL Draft Blackbook
Sandin is a smart, well-rounded defender with good mobility. He shows good possession skills where he confidently handles the puck and makes strong decisions. He’s a capable puck carrier with good foot-work. It’s his ability to see the ice and lead transition with an great first pass that allows him to thrive. Rasmus possesses excellent edge work and can effortlessly elude an opponent showing poise and strong foot-work. He does, however, need to improve his first step as it is one of the more average traits to his game.
Offensively, Sandin acts as a distributor in the offensive zone; however, he will often utilize his feet to walk the line and open shooting lanes, changing the velocity and angle of his shot appropriately to get pucks on net. He makes good reads away from the puck, showing aggressive pinches to extend zone time when needed and sneaking in from his point position to create offensive opportunities.
Defensively, Sandin excels as a stick-on-puck defender, using his mobility and smarts to excel. He keeps strong gaps and is able to keep the play in front of him due to his skating. Rasmus angles the opponent to the outside well and shows deceptive strength in his ability to stand up an opponent and separate player from puck. In the defensive zone, he shows an ability to contain.
Sandin is not a huge kid but he’s not shy to battle and play a physical game. Our biggest concern is the amount of hits he sustains while playing the position. We noticed this even more down the stretch.
Rasmus Sandin StatisticsDate of Birth: Mar 07, 2000
Place of Birth: Uppsala, SWE
Height: 5'11" / 181 cm
Weight: 185 lbs / 84 kg
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