After defeating the Laval Rocket 2-1 in overtime on Tuesday evening, Toronto Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe confirmed that Rasmus Sandin, the Leafs first round pick in the 2018 draft, will be sticking with the team going forward.
Sandin is currently on loan from Rogle BK of the SHL, which means the 18-year-old defenceman is eligible to play in the AHL. The Leafs sent Sandin to the Marlies back on September 26th but the Uppsala Sweden native sustained a thumb injury in the Marlies first pre-season game and has been sidelined ever since.
— Jacob Stoller (@JLStoller) October 24, 2018
Last season, the Leafs sent Timothy Liljegren, their first round pick in 2017, to the Marlies, too. Liljegren would evolve into an impact player for the Marlies (he recorded 17 points in 44 regular season games, suited up for 20 playoff games and hoisted a Calder Cup), which is not an easy thing to do in a league that’s youngest players are usually 20 or 21-years-old.
The decision to keep Liljegren in North America, as opposed to sending him back overseas, hinged on the fact that the club would be able to have more control over one of their top-end prospects’ development.
“It’s the recourses and what we have available here. From staffing to ice-time [or] whether it’s sports science. Strength and conditioning. Skill development. All those types of things are right here and available,” Keefe said back in September at the Marlies training camp. “And we’re able to control their schedule every single day and how their utilized.”
The Marlies currently have 11 defenceman on their roster. It won’t be a cake-walk for Sandin to earn his ice-time, but there’s certainly room to crack the lineup, as the team has been rotating between Andrew Nielsen and Sam Jardine on the left side of their third pair.
Sandin will certainly get ample opportunity to prove his worth, as it’s unlikely the Leafs would have kept him in the AHL if they didn’t think he was equipped to play in the league.