Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

What to expect from Rasmus Sandin this summer

What should we expect from Rasmus Sandin? Well, whatever you are thinking, do yourself a favour and dial it back a little further. A 20 year old defenseman with less than 30 games probably shouldn’t have too much put on him at this point, and with Rielly, Muzzin, Barrie, Dermott, Holl, and (*cough*) Ceci all healthy, Sandin could very well be on the outside looking in for the playoffs, and that’s okay. Wait, that’s not true. I’ll definitely be disappointed if Cody Ceci is playing ahead of Sandin.

Of course, it’s a lot more fun to believe that Sandin will go on a Cale Makar style playoff run, and given all that has happened in the world, if you want to believe in that, who am I to take it away from you?

By the numbers

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What we’ve seen from Sandin so far is pretty much what you’d expect to see from a developing young defenseman. Sandin has had to endure working with different partners on a regular basis, playing further up in the lineup than he is ready to, due to the Leafs excessive defensive injures, and of course, he was taking a lot of shifts with Cody Ceci.

Here is Sandin’s game by game breakdown:

data from NaturalStattrick.com, game 54 xGF% should read 48.12

When split out by coach we can see that with the stronger partners and increased sheltering under Babcock, Sandin had better results, but there wasn’t really an opportunity to do that under Keefe as Rielly, Muzzin, and Ceci were injured for significant stretches.

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BABCOCK HOLL 6 2 2 50.00% 77 57 57.46% 2.71 2.61 50.94% 11:54
KEEFE CECI 22 13 19 40.63% 287 249 53.54% 11.21 12.42 47.44% 13:13
TOTAL CECI 28 15 21 41.67% 364 306 54.33% 13.92 15.03 48.08% 12:56

Looking at how Sandin matched up against competition, it demonstrates that he’s not quite ready to go head to head with the best of the best, at least not without a partner who can support him along the way and the reality of the playoffs is that Sandin won’t be young partner learning on the job.

ELITE 40.7 50.5 73.6 36.4 31.6 15.7%
MIDDLE 56.3 60.7 47.1 53.8 53.8 42.7%
GRITENSITY 57.6 61.6 45.5 33.3 51.4 41.6%

Sandin seems perfectly capable against the bottom nine forwards, and slotting him in as a bottom pairing defender doesn’t seem like a bad idea. There’s just the small matter of the left side looking pretty much set with Rielly, Muzzin, and Dermott.

What we’ve seen so far

The eye test has been a lot more favourable with Sandin than his numbers. What we’ve seen is a good positional player, who doesn’t panic when carrying the puck, and is in no way a puck chucker. Giving Sandin a training camp to learn the system he’ll be playing in a bit better and finding him a partner he can work with will probably help his talent fit in with the Leafs system better than it has so far. Down the stretch Sandin was playing more with Tyson Barrie, and perhaps that isn’t a bad option for a sheltered third pairing that gets brought out more frequently in offensive situations.

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How will he do against Columbus?

Sandin played one game against the Blue Jackets, his second game in the NHL. Statistically it didn’t go well. His 35 xG% and 40 CF% weren’t ideal. His playing time was split primarily between Justin Holl and Cody Ceci, with Holl being the less ideal partner of the two, surprisingly.

Judging Sandin by his second game seems unfair, and ultimately between the sheltering he’d receive if used and his experience with the Leafs down the stretch could put him in a better position to contribute.

Playoff Expectations

The biggest expectation for Sandin is that we will see him, but perhaps not every night. He might make sense as an option for the Leafs in the games where they have the last change and can control his usage a bit more. Rasmus might also get a chance to work with the special teams units a bit in training camp and that could make him more the clear cut favourite to play over Cody Ceci, who is probably the player Sandin is most likely to be in competition with for the opening night lineup, if the Leafs like the looks of Sandin in those situations.

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The safe bet is that Sandin will play if Dermott or Ceci struggle or as soon as anyone is banged up we’ll see Sandin. As much as the Leafs have shown they will break with old school Babcockian rules like “tie goes to the veteran”, there is no doubt that Sandin does have more to learn and playing him is a bit of a wildcard. Of course playing Cody Ceci and knowing you aren’t getting what you want isn’t great either.

If we’re expecting anything from Sandin it’s probably 12 or 13 minutes a night of sheltered, low risk hockey, which might be the strongest case for playing him.