Toronto Maple Leafs select Rasmus Sandin with 29th-overall pick

DALLAS, TX - JUNE 22: Rasmus Sandin poses after being selected twenty-ninth overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs during the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 22, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - JUNE 22: Rasmus Sandin poses after being selected twenty-ninth overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs during the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 22, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas managed to get defenceman Rasmus Sandin, after trading back from the 25th-overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft

After sitting around minding his time until the 25th pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas started working the phones.

While it was far from a surprise that the Buds were looking at possibly trading back in the first round, they had a difficult choice to make. With projected top-15 pick Joe Veleno still on the board, and Toronto on the clock, the team elected to add more assets rather than taking the centre.

Dubas shipped the 25th overall pick to the St. Louis Blues. In exchange, they received the 29th-overall selection as well as a third-round pick, 76th overall.

With his first official draft pick as Leafs GM, Dubas returned to his old stomping grounds, selecting defenceman Rasmus Sandin from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

Following the pick, Dubas took time to speak to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman about his teams latest acquisition:

"“I think the thing about Rasmus that our staff liked as the year went on was that he had to play very difficult minutes in the playoffs. But proceeding that, he just got better and better every time we watched him. He plays the game on defence the way we want it played. He moves the puck, but he also defends very very well.I think next year, his role will expand in Sault Ste. Marie. He’s kind of a lock for the first power-play so he’ll get up there and expand his offensive side, which we think is vast, and continue to show the things he showed on the defensive side throughout the year. We’re very excited.”"

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The 2017-18 season was a crazy one for the Swedish defenceman, who started and ended the campaign in two different continents.

He, along with his older brother Linus, signed to play for Rögle BK in the 2017 offseason. After featuring in five games at the start of the SHL campaign, Sandin found himself subject to the numbers game. With veteran defenders returning from injury, the then 17-year-old was scratched from the lineup.

After being selected 52nd-overall by Sault Ste. Marie in the 2017 CHL Import Draft, he had an option. Sandin chose to leave his homeland in favour of being an everyday player in his draft year.

It paid off for the defenceman, who finished with 12 goals and 45 points in 51 games for the Greyhounds.

Sandin, at times, had to be the team’s best defenceman. With Conor Timmins missing action during the year due to injury and the World Juniors, head coach Drew Bannister leaned on the Swede, who rose to the occasion.

Sandin helped the Greyhounds finish first in the OHL standings and smash the record for most points by a team in a season, with 116.

In the postseason, Sandin posted one goal and added 12 assists in 24 games. Unfortunately, the Soo came up just short of the Memorial Cup, dropping the OHL Finals to the Hamilton Bulldogs in six games.

One of the more exciting aspects of Sandin from the Toronto Maple Leafs’ perspective, is the different places he could play next season. While Dubas seemed pretty adamant about the OHL next season, there are other possibilities on the table.

Sandin is still under contract with Rögle and could return to Sweden to play prominent minutes in the SHL. He could also go the Timothy Liljegren route and head to the AHL.

Returning to the Soo makes the most sense for his development. For one, he still has two seasons of eligibility. The Leafs could allow him to return to the OHL, where he would be a top-pairing defender on the Greyhounds after the departure of Timmins, who should be on his way to the AHL this upcoming season.

He doesn’t have the same hype coming out of the draft as Liljegren did. Because of that, he won’t have the pressure of pushing for the Leafs’ lineup right away.

Another season in the OHL could do some real good for Sandin, who has shown glimpses of his ability at both ends of the ice.

So what kind of player are the Leafs getting? I’ll let the people who watched him all year tell you:

"“Transition defender who offers strong vision and crisp passes. A smart player who knows when to pinch and can read the play happening at both ends of the rink. Lacks elite quickness but has a knack for changing gears to create separation while on the attack.” – Cam Robinson, Dobber Prospects"

"“Sandin is proof that you don’t have to be fancy with the puck in order to achieve results. His decision to leave Sweden’s junior league for the OHL is looking smarter by the day, as he is a top contributor for the Soo as they vie for a Memorial Cup bid. Sandin is a smooth skater who is as dependable away from the puck and he is with it on his stick.” – Steve Kournianos, Sporting News/The Draft Analyst"

"“Another elite puck mover who makes quick decisions and passes with pace. Underrated defender who benefitted moving to the OHL.” – Sam Cosentino, Sportsnet"

"“Sandin moves the puck well and is smooth with the puck carrying it up ice. Sandin plays big minutes and consistently makes good decisions with the puck.” – Peter Harlin, Dobber Prospects"

"When Conor Timmins (COL) went down with injury, Sandin picked up the slack and the minutes to keep the Greyhounds’ winning streak going. Excellent on a top team in a tough league.” – Jeff Marek, Sportsnet"

These are all very positive reviews of the defenceman. From listening to the broadcast when the pick was made, the analysts said that Sandin, like many other prospects, could be muscled off the puck by bigger players. Luckily, adding some muscle will correct that issue immediately.

His defensive positioning is already an asset and he doesn’t allow too much time and space for the opposition. Give Sandin time, and he will become a dependable contributor in the Leafs’ lineup.

But….but….what about Veleno?

To pass on the best player available once is something. Passing on him twice is gutsy. When a team likes a player, they’re going to take him, regardless of who is on the board.

Veleno was without a doubt the best player on the board with both the 25th and 29th selections. He also played a position the Maple Leafs could have stood to improve on. However, Sandin addresses a need as well.

The Leafs were thin on top-flight defensive prospects, with Travis Dermott almost surely heading to the NHL full-time in October.

In terms of prospects (and I don’t consider a 24+-year-old as a prospect) after Liljegren, Eemeli Rasanen, Andrew Nielsen, and Jesper Lindgren are the best defenders in the pipeline.

It’s not a misstep. In fact, Sandin was slotted to be gone before the Leafs were on the clock. This is a very solid pickup at 29. While it’s not the most electrifying selection, Sandin will prove exactly how good he is in the coming years.

Next: Leafs should inquire about Wayne Simmonds

Buds fans should be able to see Sandin on the ice along with other Leafs prospects very shortly. The Toronto Maple Leafs usually hold their rookie development camp in the first week or two of July. Stick with us as we cover every Leafs selection on day two of the 2018 NHL Draft.