The Maple Leafs announced the signing of 21-year-old Finnish right-shot defenseman Axel Rindell, a sixth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, to a two-year entry-level deal beginning in the 2022-23 season.

Rindell is also joining the AHL Toronto Marlies on a professional tryout agreement for the rest of this season, allowing him to play for the Marlies to finish off the campaign.

Rindell’s exclusive rights were set to expire this summer, and he also did not have a contract extension in place in Finland. Drafted as an overager, Rindell is already 21 years old.

He is coming off a bit of a down year, scoring 0.4 points per game in 42 games split between Jukurit and Karpat (who acquired him in a blockbuster midseason trade). Still, the defenseman has managed 65 points through 136 games played throughout his Liiga career, scoring around half a point a game — a solid stat line for a 21-year-old.

Rindell was a “swing for the fences” type of late-round gamble for the Leafs. He was a bit of a late bloomer, posting just 16 points in 46 games with HIFK U20 in Finland’s top junior league as a first time draft eligible, but he has progressed to the point where he is now an established point producer at the Liiga level.

Rindell’s quite the entertaining player to watch. His best assets are his vision and his deception as a playmaker, helping him to create and exploit passing and shooting lanes in the offensive zone. He’s not afraid whatsoever of joining the rush — or leading it himself, for that matter.

Rindell is also a solid shooter. He may have only scored once this season, but his shooting percentage was under 1% according to the Liiga’s official website and he wasn’t shooting nearly as often as in previous years. He scored seven goals and six goals in the two seasons prior, respectively.

In terms of areas for improvement, Rindell has never been a great skater. He can also be quite mistake-prone at times as many young offensive defensemen are. His skating deficiencies hamper his ability to defend the rush, which was evident to me after tracking some of his games last season.



There are legitimate questions as to whether he’ll be able to earn the trust of an NHL coach one day or if he skates well enough to translate his game to the NHL level, but he’s a fun player to watch and has upside if he’s able to put it all together.