Today’s article will take a look at Rasmus Sandin of the Toronto Marlies, a defenseman who is already turning heads as an 18-year-old in the American Hockey League.

You can read my profile on Sandin from the day he was drafted here. Many of these qualities are still holding true at the AHL level.

Sandin has proven that he’s both strong and smart enough to hold his own against older competition. He also has exceeded my expectations in terms of his transition game. As we can see below, Sandin is following up his impressive OHL scoring production with equally impressive AHL numbers:

OHL U-18 Defensemen Single-Season Points Per Game Leaders Since 2006-07 

Ryan Ellis (D)2008-2009571.56
Ryan Murphy (D)2010-2011631.25
Drew Doughty (D)2006-2007671.1
Mitchell Vande Sompel (D/F)2014-2015581.09
Ryan Merkley (D)2017-2018631.06
Zach Bogosian (D)2007-2008601.02
Ryan Ellis (D)2007-2008631
Michael Del Zotto (D)2007-2008640.98
Tony DeAngelo (D)2012-2013620.94
Calvin de Haan (D)2008-2009680.93
Aaron Ekblad (D)2013-2014580.91
Michael Del Zotto (D)2006-2007640.89
Ryan Merkley (D)2016-2017620.89
Alex Pietrangelo (D)2007-2008600.88
Rasmus Sandin (D)2017-2018510.88
Alex Pietrangelo (D)2006-2007590.88
Cam Dineen (D)2015-2016680.87
Dougie Hamilton (D)2010-2011670.87
Mikhail Sergachev (D)2015-2016670.85
P.K. Subban (D)2006-200768

(Data retrieved From Elite Prospects)

AHL U-20 Defensemen Single-Season Points Per Game Leaders Since 2006-07 (Min 10 GP)

Erik Karlsson (D)2009-2010120.92
Erik Brännström (D)2018-2019230.87
John Carlson (D)2009-2010480.81
Oliver Ekman Larsson (D)2010-2011150.67
Rasmus Ristolainen (D)2013-2014340.59
Justin Faulk (D)2011-2012120.5
Dmitri Orlov (D)2010-2011190.47
Julius Honka (D)2014-2015680.46
Nick Leddy (D)2010-2011220.45
Oliver Kylington (D)2016-2017600.45
Rasmus Sandin (D)2018-2019160.44
Timothy Liljegren (D)2018-2019190.42
Ryan Lindgren (D)2017-2018100.4
Robert Hägg (D)2013-2014100.4
Dylan DeMelo (D)2012-2013100.4
Timothy Liljegren (D)2017-2018440.39
Vyacheslav Voynov (D)2008-2009610.38
Vyacheslav Voynov (D)2009-2010790.37
Connor Carrick (D)2013-2014130.31

(Data retrieved From Elite Prospects)

While Sandin’s shooting percentage is bound to come back down to earth a little bit, he’s impressing offensively at the age of 18, while most of the players on this list were 19 at the time. In addition, he did not receive power play time at the start of the season, so this should help offset a decline in shooting percentage.

An Updated Scouting Report on Rasmus Sandin 

Rasmus Sandin, Toronto Maple Leafs
Photo: Christian Bonin/

A Zone-Exit Specialist

My pre-draft scouting report of Sandin is looking quite accurate, but his transition game is a grade above what I initially believed. His ability to escape opposing forecheckers, leverage his body to protect the puck, and find passing lanes makes him a zone exit specialist. He sees the ice well in the neutral zone as well.

He shows plenty of poise to hold onto the puck until something opens up rather than panicking, shooting the puck hard off the boards, and giving the puck away. Defenders who hold onto the puck forever can make their coach nervous, but he shields off forecheckers so well that he always seems to have things under control. He’s incredibly comfortable using his backhand to start zone exits, and his knack for no-look passes makes it difficult for opposing players to anticipate his next move. You can see this on display in these four clips:

As you can see, all four clips above involve Sandin creating an easy zone exit with a quick and accurate backhand pass. He doesn’t even have to look. His ability to find his teammates in these situations makes it seem like he has eyes on the back of his head.

Escapability and Patience 

Escapability is such a key skill for an NHL defenseman, especially against strong forechecking teams like the Bruins. Travis Dermott’s ability to elude opposing forecheckers is a major reason why he’s been able to be so effective at the NHL level. Sandin resembles him in this area of the game.

Sandin makes it look like his offseason training regime involves five hours a day of running away from a bear (Who knows? Maybe it is). Right when you think he’s about to get caught and turn the puck over, he spins around and loses the forechecker completely:

Tilting the ice in your team’s favour becomes far easier when you can create time and space to transition the puck. Players who can’t escape forecheckers end up slamming the puck off the boards, thus handing the puck back to the other team. The Leafs are in desperate need of a zone-exit specialist. It’s nice to know that help is on the way.

Zone-Entries and Puck-Carrying

Sandin only has average to slightly above average straight-line speed, but his puck protection skillset pairs well with his ability to make defenders miss. He’s a pass-first player who is known for making a good “first-pass” out of the zone, but as you can see, he’s certainly comfortable doing it all himself when he has time and space:

The key to all this is his puck protection, as it provides the confidence to complete these rushes. Even though he’s never the fastest player on the ice, his elusiveness allows him to make the highlight reels.


When an 18-year old is playing in the AHL, there’s always going to be questions about whether or not the player can hold his own physically, especially when the player is a defenseman. Although he’s only 5’11”, he wins plenty of battles in the corners and certainly does not look overmatched physically:

He has not factored in on the penalty kill for the Marlies, but just like Liljegren, he could start to transition into this role once he gets some experience under his belt. I don’t expect him to rack up a ton of hits at the NHL level, but he should be strong enough to hold his own in net-front battles.

Offensive-Zone Play

Despite already having four AHL goals to his name, Sandin is not a volume shooter. He doesn’t take many shots from low-danger scoring areas other than the occasional one-timer from the point. He picks his spots well in terms of jumping up in the play and he’s  strong enough as a passer to play on an NHL power play.

His offensive-zone passing isn’t quite where it was in junior, but he’s been moving the puck pretty well all season. His patience with the puck allows him to wait until a passing lane develops; it’s difficult to rush him into making a bad decision.

Sandin is a player who could rack up a surprising amount of secondary assists in the near future, as his ability as a zone-exit specialist allows him to start the rush for his teammates, while his patience and elusiveness allow him to keep plays alive in the offensive zone.

He’s perfectly capable of transitioning the puck up to his skilled forwards, and that’s a recipe for success on a team like the Leafs.

Final Thoughts 

Sandin is in the midst of an impressive rookie season with the Marlies. He’s an impressive passer in all three zones, he plays a well-rounded and mature style, and his transition game should help make him a valuable NHL player someday. Even though it’s known as a 19-year-old’s tournament, we can expect him to be one of the better defensemen at the World Juniors, even though he might not get power play time.

He could stand to improve in terms of straight-line speed and his NHL upside depends on whether or not he can get a step quicker. However, straight-line speed can be a little bit overrated when it comes to scouting and his edge-work helps him to be effective in small spaces. My main concern is on the rush; there are some pretty damn fast forwards at the NHL level, and Sandin can get exposed at times in this regard.

Players like Travis Dermott and Mitch Marner added a step as they continued to develop, and if he can do the same, Sandin should become a stable top-four defenseman. Before we get too carried away, let’s remember that he’s 18, so let’s not pretend like he’s NHL ready. I’ll be surprised if he makes the team out of camp next season, but he’s certainly looking like a future NHL player who Mike Babcock will love.

Toronto’s defensemen struggle to exit the zone against teams that forecheck well. Sandin should be able to help them in this regard someday. His partner always seems to have plenty of time and space and his ability to make a good first pass helps his forwards impress in terms of zone entries.

The Leafs would love to add another top-four defenseman to their team in the next couple of years. It looks like they have a chance to do just that.