If you’re a Leaf fan and didn’t use your weekend to sleep through from Friday to now, you’ve more than likely heard the name of the prized first round pick, and first draft pick of the Kyle Dubas era, defenceman Rasmus Sandin.
Firstly, Leaf fans will lean towards the “Sundin” pronunciation, San-deen, and while this has been used by various commentators, Dubas himself announced San-din at the podium on draft night. I guess time will tell once someone releases the Timothy Liljegrin-like pronunciation manual video.
So, what does Sandin bring to the table? What can fans expect from this type of player?
Well, as everyone knows, the Buds are stacked up front, so loading up on the back end was a logical thing to do. After picking the aforementioned Timmy Liljegrin in the first round last year, the Maple Leafs have doubled-down on their efforts to stockpile mobile, puck-moving defencemen, something that never goes out of style in today’s NHL.
Sandin doesn’t bring a lot of size per se, but he uses every bit of his 5′ 11″ frame in play.
Granted, this is at the junior level, but it shows he’s more than willing to throw his weight around at the competition.
Something that is a strength of his, is his skating ability and also, yes, I’m going to use this term for the first time, his hockey IQ. The Leafs have made no secret about the type of players they want, from upper management down to Coach Babcock. Being able to move the puck up the ice, out of the zone, has become paramount in the Leafs strategy. Babs is known to preach about how much easier it is to play in the offensive end, and that’s what they’re going to focus on.
Sandin fits this bill entirely. He didn’t put up mind-boggling offensive numbers in comparison to some other higher-profile picks, but he also wasn’t given the most opportunities to produce as he was only on the second PP.
When I watch Sandin rush up the ice like this – the one player that he immediately reminds me of is Brian Rafalski, just look at the strides with his head up. He has some niftier mittens though I think.
To put it into perspective, since the Drew Doughty draft, (2008), Sandin (0.88 PPG) is sandwiched in between notable d-men PK Subban (0.82 PPG), Dougie Hamilton (0.87) Alex Pietrangelo (0.88), and Michael Del Zotto (0.89), Aaron Ekblad (0.91), & Calvin de Haan (0.93). Not bad company to be in I’d say. Again, this is all without prime PP time.
Sandin’s great strength is his patience with the puck, and great decision-making. His ability to recover the puck and dispossess the opposition is fantastic, which is another attribute that the Leafs covet.
It’s rumoured that he’ll be paired with Liljegrin at the upcoming World Juniors, maybe foreshadowing a top pairing in the future with the blue & white. I for one, am very excited to see what these guys can do.