There’s no denying that taking fourth place in our Top 25 Under 25 is a big deal. We voted Rasmus Sandin up the ranks to sit behind only Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner. He’s now even higher than last year’s rank of #6, and maintains his spot as the top prospect on the Maple Leafs.
Votes - Rasmus Sandin
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Nick Robertson was only a fraction of a ranking point behind Sandin. Essentially, we had them tied as top prospects, but there’s a story behind the numbers. Four voters placed Robertson at #4, while six placed Sandin there. But the big difference for Robertson was having several 6th place votes that put him behind Kasperi Kapanen.
Interestingly, last year Sandin had six votes at #4 (or #3!) too. Katya, Omar, and myself are the only ones who held his rank there, while Arvind, Kevin and Brigstew bumped him down in favour of Robertson. However, many other voters had Sandin ranked far lower last year, but now all those doubts about his future potential are gone. Rasmus Sandin has arrived in the NHL.
Where does he go from here?
This is the big question among our voters. We have a consensus that his floor is a league-average defenceman, but his ceiling is what we all want to know but don’t. Are we looking at a defenceman who could make it up to the top pairing playing big minutes, or a versatile tool on the second pairing who can participate in special teams? No one appears willing to gamble and call that ceiling yet, which you probably can’t for a 19 year-old defenceman anyway. Here’s what our voters said.
Fulemin: He should at least be a second-pair defender. No doubt in my mind. After that? We’ll see.
Arvind: I have kind of a similar thing to say about Sandin as I did about Liljegren. I like him in the general sense, and Sandin certainly has a lot of upside. I’ve ranked him above some good NHLers like Kasperi Kapanen because of that upside. However, Sandin wasn’t a particularly effective NHL defenseman this season. Yes, he was 19, yes it was only 28 games, yes he had some outstanding moments, like that flip pass to Nylander for a breakaway goal in Nashville. But he was playing sheltered minutes and still surrendered a good amount of high-danger chances. Being in the NHL at 19 and not completely dying is a good sign, even if Sandin was below average. Like Fulemin, I expect him to be at least a league-average NHL defenseman. This year has made me slightly less sure of his possible upside.
Katya: I didn’t hesitate to rank Sandin over Robertson. That’s the only question for me, although overall, Kasperi Kapanen is in the conversation for some voters. But even if Robertson becomes his best possible self, he’ll end up worth more to the team than a really good defenceman, I still believe a little more in Sandin. And this was a belief vote for me. I don’t care much at all about his NHL play to date, and I have looked at Morgan Rielly’s first year results, which is informative when wondering how a young guy will do in that first year. But Sandin has this something about him that I’ve believed in since the first time I saw him at the WJC, and his last WJC — that was special. He shouldn’t have even been in the NHL this year. He forced his way in, and at his age, he’s got leaps of growth yet. I think the distinction between top pair and second pair defenders is really not large on some teams, so I’m not picking a number. He’s far above the endless parade of third pairing defenders the Leafs have used, and in 20 years, when we look back on his career, I don’t think we’ll be sorry we knew him.
Brigstew: Sandin is fun and magical to watch. He’s up there with Robertson as the real blue chip prospects the Leafs have outside of the NHL, except Sandin is right there in the NHL now. I’m still not 100% sure how good he’ll wind up being, but I’m excited. He has some good insulation in front of him so he can adapt to the NHL, and hopefully in another year or two he’s starting to steal minutes and a bigger role from the veterans ahead of him.
seldo: I’m not sure how he ended up as low as 4th. All time he’s first in goals, points, power play goals, game winning goals, second in assists, and had one of the most dramatic nights in Maple Leafs history when he scored his 500th goal as an overtime winner. He’s one of the all time greats and 4th overall is way, way, too low. Shame on all of you.
... you should probably just ignore Seldo, or check him into the wall. Let’s look at some highlights instead!
There’s no doubt at this point about how dynamic Sandin can be with the puck. His ability to manoeuvre in close quarters is amazing.
This is vintage Sandin pic.twitter.com/JTnHxAHJN1— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) February 12, 2020
Kevin’s comment here is bang on. Sandin has the ability to view everyone’s movement on the ice and make a decision about how to move the puck seemingly in a fraction of a second. He does this all the time. This is actually a thread Tweet and you can see more if you open it up.
Sandin is such a talented passer. pic.twitter.com/Qtm5P7VEO7— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) May 16, 2020
In last year’s post I noted that he has an impressive physical element to his game, and is willing to go in for the big hit when he gets the chance. He’s done that even back when playing on the Soo Greyhounds, and he didn’t disappoint on that front with the Leafs this season.
Rasmus Sandin lines up his man and gets the big hit pic.twitter.com/dtlbYYF0L2— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) March 1, 2020
Will he play in the play-in/playoffs?
Sandin played a lot with Tyson Barrie this season while Morgan Rielly was out with an injury, but Keefe changed up the defence so much in that period you can find games where he was with Timothy Liljegren and even Calle Rosen too. Sandin is at the Leafs training camp now and available for the coming games that will complete this season. In the first day of scrimmages he was paired off with Martin Marincin, per Chris Johnston.
(Liljegren didn’t participate this day)
Let’s not draw final conclusions from the order of that list, or from anything on day one of the re-training camp, but you can see from who is above him in that list there’s a problem right now for Sandin to get on the ice for games. There’s no guarantee he’s there on August 2 for the first game against Columbus, or after that. However, after this season there are some big changes possible.
Both Cody Ceci and Tyson Barrie will become unrestricted free agents able to sign anywhere after this season. It seems almost certain both will go somewhere else which will open up two spots on the right side where Sandin may wind up having to play.
Whatever happens, Sandin is here and ready to play now, and there’s good reason to be hyped about what he can do for the Leafs in the next few seasons.
Now you have to answer the big question.
Who is the Leafs Top Prospect?