The Toronto Maple Leafs have left the door wide open for one of their young defencemen to break through. It’s a big opportunity for Rasmus Sandin, who spent the offseason preparing mentally and physically. However, he was not taking advice from his friend, William Nylander.
Sandin, the first-round draft pick of the Maple Leafs in 2018, is feeling confident after a few days at training camp. The 21-years old says his development has come a long way, he feels stronger and faster. While the competition is fierce, Sandin says (in the video below) that he is not looking to his fellow Swede for help.
The friendly chirping goes back to last season. Nylander was asked where the young defenceman gets his confidence. Nylander couldn’t resist, through a laugh, he said Sandin’s been watching and learning from him.
Joking aside, Toronto has challenged Sandin to elevate his performance. He played in 28 games during the 2019-20 season, but clearly, the coaching staff didn’t see enough to warrant a spot. The Leafs acquired Zach Bogosian to play in that spot last season. That acquisition left Sandin on the taxi squad, as he played nine regular-season games and five playoff games during the 2020-21 campaign. When he did play, we saw a mixed bag, with both promising and questionable moments.
Maple Leafs Competition at Defence
Toronto has 17 defencemen at training camp competing for those top six spots on the blue line. Four jobs already belong to Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, T.J. Brodie and Justin Holl. A fifth spot is likely filled by Travis Dermott. That leaves a dozen players competing for just one spot. Toronto’s first-round pick from 2017, Timothy Liljegren has said he needs to live up to expectations this season, however, he is competing with Dermott for the right-side spot.
Other blueliners who are pushing the competition for a spot on the roster would include Alex Biega, Carl Dahlstrom and Brennan Menell. The three players were signed during the offseason and are getting a fresh look by the Maple Leafs’ coaching staff. Toronto has two weeks and four preseason games left to decide who will be playing on opening night, October 13 versus the Montreal Canadiens.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.