I remember first realizing how good a young defender the Rasmus Sandin Toronto Maple Leafs could become. It was during Sandin’s successful World Junior Tournament in early January 2020.
However, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Even before the World Juniors, Sandin showed his talent during the Maple Leafs rain camp. At the World Juniors, however, he caught the attention of Craig Button, who tweeted that Sandin was by far the best defender in the tournament.
Hey @ MapLeafs fans. @iihf_wjc @Trekronorse @Rasmussandin is clearly the best defender here. Not closed. He was brilliant in every area of the game.
Obviously, other Button agreed. Sandin was named the tournament’s best defender, scoring three goals and seven assists in seven games and helping his Swedish team take home the bronze medal.
Button is particularly good at judging young prospects, but his high one Praise wasn’t unique. Other hockey commentators noted Sandin’s skill, and some reported that they felt the Maple Leafs should make Sandin a part of their lineup. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston agreed with Button and gave a rundown of Sandins’ World Junior success. He predicted Sandin would be among Maple Leafs defenders last season.
This season, after Kyle Dubas, General Manager of Maple Leafs, both T.J. Brodie and Zach Bogosian, to aid the team’s defense, looked like Sandin was going to be spending his season with the AHL Toronto Marlies. But when Bogosian went down with a shoulder injury on April 20, Sandin stepped in. He’ll probably never leave now.
Sandin’s game suggests Maple Leafs fans need to indulge themselves. There’s a lot to see as this young star becomes part of the team’s defense. Despite not playing in the team’s last three regular season games because the Maple Leafs faced salary restrictions, Sandin had made four assists in nine games with the team in the 2020-21 season.
During the 5-1 win of Maple Leafs’ Game 2 on Saturday, Sandin scored on power play when his shot hit the back of the net from point. Although Game 2 was a pleasure for Sandin and his fans, it came after a difficult Game 1 in which Sandin’s mistake led to the Canadiens’ decisive shorthanded goal.
After Game 2, Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe considered Sandin’s game when he discovered that Sandin had indeed made a mistake on the winning goal. Keefe noted, however, that « his fault is likely to be that he didn’t step off the ice on the way back for that puck, so if this happens, he won’t get tired. » That was the mistake. «
Keefe also admitted that after Game 1 he went back to watch the game and abandoned the game, and by studying the game he was able to find out « many positive things » that Sandin had done.
In particular, Keefe noted, “I saw the first game in its entirety and felt a lot better about his (Sandins) game. I didn’t just focus on one mistake we make a lot. Sure the media does, but even coaches tend to do it sometimes. So it’s important to take the time the next day to break it down. «
Keefe then indicated that he had predicted correctly: “With that experience of playing this first game – it’s so quick and physical – I thought he would be better today. I just think with Rasmus the payoff can be huge for us in terms of his skills and what he can bring. That requires a little more patience on our part. I just really believed that he would be better today than in the first game. «
We’ll see how Sandin does in the next few games in the series. Whatever happens for the rest of the season, there is little doubt that Sandin will be part of the Maple Leafs’ plans for a long time to come. With Morgan Rielly under contract for just one more season, isn’t it possible that Sandin will be able to tackle a top-two defensive pairing as early as next season? Or the season after?
Is Sandin really good enough to allow Rielly to sign elsewhere? With every day that Sandin gains experience, he is evolving into a respected defender who sees his regular service for the next season and becomes an important part of the Maple Leafs defense for the coming season.
Stan Smith, who is a great Maple Leafs fan, who breaks down the team’s play in each game and has watched this Maple Leafs team for many seasons, suggests, “I’ve never seen a rookie defender and one who was only 19 when he first stepped on the ice for the Leafs and impressed me as much as Sandin did in his first 50 games. “
Smith’s last word is, » I seriously think Sandin has the potential to be a better all-around defender than Rielly. «
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