The second defenceman named Rasmus in the NHL Draft is, in some ways, a lot like the first one.
Rasmus Sandin is a mobile, dynamic defenceman who can rush and pass the puck and help drive offence from the back. He just doesn’t do these things quite as well as fellow Swede Rasmus Dahlin, who is also three inches taller, more physical and will be the Buffalo Sabres’ first overall pick in Dallas on June 22.
Still, at 5-foot-11, Sandin perfectly fits the new NHL prototype for nimble blueliners who can retrieve and relay the puck, while defending with speed and positioning — just like Adam Boqvist and Quinn Hughes and Ty Smith, who are all fleet, undersized defencemen likely be drafted ahead of Sandin in the top half of the first round.
Really, the most obvious difference between Sandin and all these other defenders is his travel itinerary and erratic route to the NHL draft.
Team: Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
From: Uppsala, Sweden
Weight: 190 pounds
Does it matter that the 18-year-old from Uppsala has changed teams four times in three years? Probably not. But it is curious, especially coming from Sweden where top prospects, typically, find a team that suits them, then patiently and steadily develop in the system.
Top-rated Dahlin, for example, has spent all of his junior and senior club time playing with Frolunda, while Boqvist hasn’t strayed from Brynas’ program.
But Sandin played in MoDo’s system at age 15, Brynas’ at 16, then signed with Rogle’s senior team at 17 before bolting on loan last October – after five unhappy games in the Swedish Hockey League – to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
“We would rather have seen Rasmus playing with us, of course, but we can not guarantee him the playing time he wants,” Rogle’s manager, Anders Carlsson, said at the time. “The player has had a wish to play for Soo Greyhounds and we lend Rasmus to the Soo for the 2017-2018 season.”
On a powerhouse team, Sandin transitioned instantly to smaller ice and amassed 45 points in 51 games for the Greyhounds and led all Ontario Hockey League rookie defencemen in scoring. His successful junior year allowed him to finish 11th among North American skaters on NHL Central Scouting’s final draft list, up from 15th at mid-season.
And then Sandin returned to Rogle where, unless something better comes along, he’ll be playing next season in the SHL.
“It feels good to be back,” Sandin said earlier this month in a story translated from Rogle’s website.
“I’ve learned a lot in Canada and have developed. Then we’ll see what’s going on next weekend in Dallas.”
Questioned a year ago by Swedish reporter Ronnie Ronnkvist about constantly changing teams, Sandin said: “I have made these choices because I think it will help me going forward. I do not think it has affected me negatively, but it worked really well for me. Now I’m in Rogle and hopefully I’ll stay here for a good while anyway.”
A couple of months later, he was in Sault Ste. Marie. And whatever the optics and his reasons, spending the winter in the OHL was obviously beneficial for Sandin.
Sure, he benefitted by playing for the Soo juggernaut that scored 317 goals and was led by a bunch of highly skilled players: Morgan Frost, Boris Katchouk, Conor Timmins, Taylor Raddysh and Barrett Hayton, the centre who is No. 9 on Central Scouting’s draft list.
But Sandin’s ability was unmistakeable.
He is not the quickest skater, but is fast and fluid at full stride and agile in tight spaces. He’s patient and poised with the puck, excellent in transition and smart defensively. If he continues developing, Sandin has the game to play in the NHL – possibly even with just one team – for a long time.
Teammate Morgan Frost, the Philadelphia Flyers’ first-round pick who led the Soo this season with 112 points in 67 games, told the Sault Star newspaper: “(Sandin) is probably one of the smartest players I’ve ever played with.”
Greyhounds coach Drew Bannister: “He defends, but he also creates offence. It’s the way he moves the puck and his competitive nature. He logs a lot of minutes, he has leadership qualities and he’s extremely mature. He’s a 17-year-old playing like a 19-year-old.”
Sandin on his year in the OHL: “The top players are really good; it’s maybe the best junior league in the world. And for me, it’s been good to play with players my own age. You need to be quicker to the puck. You don’t have as much time to make a play.”
Rasmus Sandin with a beauty goal https://t.co/MVeoOFbCjH
— SauceHard (@SauceHard) October 31, 2015
Sandin had a good reason for leaving Brynas’ junior team to sign with Rogle’s senior squad before last season: older brother Linus is a centre for the team from Angelholm in southwest Sweden.
Undrafted in the NHL, Linus Sandin, 22, had three goals and seven points in 42 games as a rookie centre in the Swedish League this season.
“Linus got his contract one day before me, but we (signed) the same day so that we could say we were ready at the same time,” Rasmus told the hockeysverige.se website. “My brother on the same team…is great. I do not know if that will happen any more in my career.”
There has been conjecture that the Maple Leafs could be interested in Sandin because general manager Kyle Dubas’ hockey roots are in Sault Ste. Marie with the Greyhounds — and Jeff Marek’s mock draft did indeed have Sandin going to Toronto. The Leafs haven’t nearly as many good, young defencemen and they have forwards, but Sandin is an attractive player and some other team may be interested in taking him earlier in Round 1.
He said he interviewed with 27 NHL clubs at the draft combine.