The Toronto Maple Leafs are betting on defenceman Rasmus Sandin and so far things seem to be going according to plan.
The blueliner scored his first NHL goal in his 10th game Monday, aiding Toronto in their 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators.
His 10th game is significant because it effectively means the Maple Leafs have kicked in the first year of Sandin’s entry-level contract. It’s theoretically a risk, but with defenceman Morgan Rielly out with a broken foot, there are few options.
And make no mistake about it, Sandin is well worth the risk. He’s one of the best possibilities in the Leafs’ camp and could stick Toronto with an interesting decision to make come March when Rielly is slated to return.
Sandin has six points in 10 games and is quickly taking the focus off the Maple Leafs’ depleted defence corps. While the injuries have made it clear there are issues on the blueline, his play has allowed head coach Sheldon Keefe to make some creative decisions. On Monday, that meant scratching Martin Marincin with Jake Muzzin making his return.
That illustrates the bench boss’s faith in Sandin, who is among just four defencemen currently under contract for next season.
But next season is next season and Toronto still has a push to make this year, which is where the 19-year-old can really make a difference. If he can continue to prove his mettle, like he did when he sent William Nylander in on a breakaway for Monday’s first goal, we should see plenty of him in the lineup.
Sandin has made an indelible impact on his teammates and seems to be fitting in extremely well, plus he’s one of just three teenaged blueliners to see an awful lot of minutes this season. That puts him in the company of Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin and Chicago’s Adam Boqvist, fellow Swedes.
“He comes up here and he plays with poise,” said Nylander. “The way he holds onto the puck; he makes small little plays, too. How smooth he is up on the blue line, it’s tremendous to see.”
The Maple Leafs are fourth in the Atlantic Division, two points behind the Florida Panthers and four behind the Tampa Bay Lightning. They’re a full eight up on the Sabres and will skate against the Dallas Stars Wednesday.
Photo credit: Graham Hughes/CP