It took just one season in the AHL. That’s all Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Rasmus Sandin needed in order to make the jump to the NHL. Thanks to his confidence and type of game he plays, Sandin made the Maple Leafs opening night roster.
We’ve known Sandin to be confident ever since his days with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. He was one of the best players on that team in his draft season. Then at the NHL Combine in 2018, he dropped perhaps one of the greatest quotes in recent memory.
Talk about a confident prospect. Although there were more touted prospects, Sandin thought at the time he was one of the best players available. The Maple Leafs agreed and made Sandin a first-round pick.
If you recall, the 2018 NHL Draft saw a lot of defensemen go in the first round. This was the Rasmus Dahlin draft. But check out the other defensemen that all went before Sandin.
- Quinn Hughes, 7th to Vancouver.
- Adam Boqvist, 8th to Chicago.
- Evan Bouchard, 10th to Edmonton.
- Noah Dobson, 12th to the New York Islanders.
- Ty Smith, 17th to the New Jersey Devils.
- Ryan Merkley, 21st to the San Jose Sharks.
- K’Andre Miller, 22nd to the New York Rangers.
- Filip Johansson, 24th to the Minnesota Wild.
- Jacob Bernard-Docker, 26th to the Ottawa Senators.
- Nicolas Beaudin, 27th to the Chicago Blackhawks.
- Nils Lundkvist, 28th to the New York Rangers
- Then finally, Sandin 29th to the Maple Leafs.
A total of 12 defensemen went ahead of Sandin. While each of the above are talented and could out to be great players, Sandin is showing he is good enough to play here now.
Sandin spent a few minutes with us on Friday to talk about his rise and what has helped him get to this point so quickly. His confidence continues to shine just as much now as it did during his draft year.
Rasmus Sandin: Confidence Is His Game
“I’m here for a reason,” Sandin said. “I just need to play as I have been playing and I’ll be good.”
Still, it is hard for a defenseman to make the NHL this early in their career. The conventional wisdom says it can take at least two years or longer before the good defensemen make an impact. That tells you everything you need to know about Sandin and what the Maple Leafs think of him and his development.
So how was he able to buck this trend and land on the Maple Leafs right away? Sandin offered up an interesting quote that is certainly becoming a trend league-wide.
“They (The Marlies & Maple Leafs) allowed me to make mistakes while still playing my game,” Sandin said. “They helped me with the small details that would help to elevate my game.”
Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella noted at media day that the league is becoming a league of mistakes. He is coaching in such a way that instead of benching someone for one or two mistakes, he will let his players play through them, unless they occur over and over again.
The Maple Leafs let Sandin play his style of game while only showing him some of the smaller details. The fact that he was able to adjust this quickly is a testament to the work ethic he brings. So what was the biggest adjustment Sandin had to make between the Marlies and Maple Leafs?
“Having to make quicker decisions was my biggest adjustment,” Sandin noted. “It’s easier sometimes to do that more (in the NHL) because players are usually always in the right spot more here.”
And Mike Babcock has been a huge help to Sandin early. In regards to Babcock, Sandin said the coach “always wants the best for his players, especially the young players.” He put extra emphasis on that because the biggest thing Babcock wants from his younger players is learning to become a professional. Sandin noted that this was the biggest early takeaway from Babcock.
As for the rest of the season, Sandin is just going to worry about playing his game and not looking over his shoulder. Once some of the injured Maple Leafs such as Travis Dermott get back, he might lose his place. This doesn’t bother him one bit. He knows he belongs and will continue to do the things he knows he’s good at, all the while continuing to develop into a better player overall.
Maple Leafs fans, you have a good one in Sandin. And just like his current Fortnite game, he will continue to be super aggressive in what he does. It’s what’s helped him get to this point in living out his lifelong dream.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.