Toronto Maple Leafs: Reviewing each top prospects season

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nicholas Robertson. (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images)
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nicholas Robertson. (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images) /
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Toronto Maple Leafs
Rasmus Sandin #38 of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

Rasmus Sandin

In fairness to Robertson, the case can be made that Rasmus Sandin is the most important prospect in the Leafs’ system.

After making the team out of training camp, Sandin made it to the six-game mark before Mike Babcock and company decided it was better for his development to play a more significant role with the Toronto Marlies. Then injuries on the blue line forced the Leafs to recall the 19-year-old and it’s uncertain whether he would have stayed once Jake Muzzin returned.

Sandin’s performance at the world juniors earned him the recognition as the top defenceman in the tournament and for good reason as he showed great poise and instincts with the puck. Of course, it takes time to get that suitable at the NHL level.

We are certainly seeing Sandin taking steps and is slowly transitioning from prospect to full-time NHLer. There are obviously steps that he still has to take as Sheldon Keefe — who has seen in both the NHL and AHL — points out.

"“As he gets stronger and more comfortable with the pace and the strength of the players away from the puck and in 50-50 situations and net-front battles, as he did at the AHL level where things happen a little bit slower, we think we’ve got a great player there,” Keefe to Sportsnet’s Hockey Central at Noon. “The tools are all there. He is an incredible kid. He works extremely hard. He is very focused and confident in himself. In time, he is going to prove to be a very important piece of our club.”"

Having Jake Muzzin signed to a four-year extension and Morgan Rielly still locked in for another season means that Sandin isn’t expected to make the jump into the top-four anytime soon.

At the same time, the Leafs will need him to take a step forward in his development especially if the team considers playing him on his off side which he has done at times in his career. Having him play there with Muzzin or Rielly solves a glaring need down the road especially with only Timothy Liljegren as the club’s top option on the right side.