Weight: 190 pounds
Date of birth: March 7, 2000
Hometown: Uppsala, Sweden
OHL Draft: Round 1, 52nd overall, 2017 CHL Import Draft
Much of the 2018 National Hockey League Draft chatter, when talking about Ontario Hockey League defencemen, has been centered around the Guelph Storm’s Ryan Merkley and the London Knights’ Evan Bouchard.
Don’t look now, but here comes Rasmus Sandin of the Soo Greyhounds.
While Sandin isn’t considered in some circles to be in the same class as Merkley or Bouchard, there is a compelling case to be made that he could very well be the second defenceman taking from the OHL. Yours truly is firmly on that bandwagon.
If one wasn’t convinced earlier in the season, then the admirable job Sandin has done in the absence of the Greyhounds’ top defenceman Conor Timmins, who is representing Canada at the World Junior Championships in Buffalo, New York should be drawing your attention. In recognition of his performance, he was named OHL Rookie of the Month for December.
Sandin wasn’t an unknown. Coming into this season, he was ranked as a B Prospect by NHL Central Scouting on their Players to Watch List. On their updated list in November, Sandin was among 139 Canadian Hockey League players listed, this time as an A Prospect. (B prospects are considered a second or third round pick while an A prospect is considered a first-round pick.)
Sandin was the 52nd overall pick at the CHL Import Draft in 2017. But Sandin was under a contractual obligation with Rogle BK of the Swedish Hockey League for this season. He appeared in five games in Sweden’s top league (one assist) before Greyhounds General Manage Kyle Raftis could secure his services. Raftis worked diligently for some time to make it come to fruition.
What exactly have the Greyhounds done since his arrival? Well, he helped solidify their blue line for one thing. And the Greyhounds have gone on to win 23 of the 24 games he’s been in the lineup – 23 straight and 2 shy of the OHL record held by the Kitchener Rangers.
I’m not about to suggest that is all due to Rasmus Sandin. However, for a team to go on such an amazing run, you need 20 players all pulling in the same direction and playing almost flawlessly on any given night. And Sandin gives you that.
Last season, Sandin played in Sweden’s top junior league, Super Elite League, with Brynas and in 36 games scored 3 goals and added 18 assists. He also captained Sweden’s entry at the World Hockey Challenge Under-17 where he had 2 assists in 6 games and captured Gold with Sweden.
Sandin’s excellent leadership qualities were at the forefront again in August as he was named Sweden’s captain for their squad at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial. The Swede’s would capture a Bronze at the tournament that begins the year for draft eligible players. He would register 3 assists in 5 games.
Internationally, Sandin has also represented Sweden at Under-16, Under-17 and Under-18 tournaments.
As with most sub-six-foot defencemen, questions arise about size. But at 190 pounds, he has the bulk most of his peers are still trying to add on. He has the upper body strength to engage physically while battling along the wall or in front of his goal. While he isn’t a “physical defenceman” he can separate players from the puck and uses his strength to protect the puck. He shows no signs of playing timid and will absorb the hit to make a play.
While there are also questions about a lack of high end speed or an explosive first step, it’s not something that gets him into trouble. He’s not a slow skater by any means and it is something he can continue to work on to improve.
But he’s also a very smart skater, skating smartly to conserve his energy which allows him to eat up valuable minutes. He controls his edges very well, has very good lateral movement, pivots and turns very well and skates backwards with relative ease.
Smart is an adjective you will hear a lot about Sandin. Any disadvantage he has, he overcomes because of it. In the defensive zone he possesses excellent gap control with near flawless positioning with his body or very active stick. He is very adept at angling players out and keeping them to the outside, although he can sometimes be beaten on the outside by a speedy forward.
Sandin is excellent at retrieving pucks. He plays a calm, unrushed game. He can clear the zone with an excellent, crisp, tape-to-tape first pass enabling him to elude the forecheck effectively. He stretches the ice extremely well and can “lead” teammates with a perfect pass. But he can also skate out of danger with an uncanny knack to slow the pace down, and then reads and reacts patiently. He is also an effective penalty killer and gets quality PK time with the Greyhounds.
Offensively, Sandin isn’t as flashy as Merkley or Bouchard. But at the time of writing this, he leads all OHL rookies in scoring and is third only to Bouchard and Merkley in offense from the blue line among draft eligible players, just shy of a point-per-game pace. He’s tenth among all draft eligible players in assists, while playing fewer games.
Again, he uses his hockey smarts and knows when to jump into the play to create offense. He knows when to pinch in and go down low and rarely gets beaten. He can quarterback the powerplay and makes excellent passes. He doesn’t possess an overpowering or heavy shot, but he can get it off with a purpose, whether looking for a deflection or to create a rebound.
You can certainly make an argument that he is the best two-way defender available from the OHL and you wouldn’t get much of an argument.
I had the opportunity to have a lengthy chat with Rasmus’ father Patric Sandin about Rasmus the hockey player and Rasmus the person.
The elder Sandin told us that Rasmus is self taught in a lot of ways.
“When he was three years old he used to borrow his moms inline size 8 skates and skate all over the house with absolute full control. He learned to ride a bicycle when he was turning 5 without any help.” He added, “first time I saw him on a bicycle he was riding his moms bicycle downhill in full speed and he was only 5!! Crazy kid.”
Rasmus is also very family oriented and close with his family. His older brother Linus, who is four years older and plays for Rogle of the Swedish Hockey League has had a major influence on him. Patric told us “Linus has always let Rasmus to be with him and play with the older guys.”
It speaks volumes to Rasmus’ competitiveness and willingness to be the best he can be:
“When Linus was going to a training camp at 11 years old, Rasmus also wanted to go even though he was only 7. We told him ‘if he could tie his own skates properly he could go and if the camp was willing to have a boy who was several years younger to sleep over and compete with the older guys’. Rasmus directly started to practice tying his own skates and after two days hard work he managed to do that. He went to the camp with the much older boys and after that he has always been independent and competed with older kids.”
That independence would come in handy and in very short order for Rasmus.
“‘He is the most mature boy I ever met’ is something I hear from people who meet Rasmus. He has been living by himself since he was 14 years old when he played for Modo and after that he moved to Brynas when he was 15. At 17 he got a contract and moved to Rogle with his brother. After five games with Rogle in SHL he decided to move to SSM because he was absolutely confident that it would make him a better hockey player.”
But how does a “child” survive without mom’s home cooking? “He is an excellent cook, loves to make a nice steak with belongings and crossed asparagus and a good sauce. He always takes a picture of it and sends me that picture. There is nothing he can’t do if you ask Rasmus himself.” Said Patric.
“He really loves his family and is very close with his brother. Rasmus is the whole package – not just hockey – I think. He always stands up for those who need help whatever it is. He is a good friend I think. We are really proud of our two boys. Not just of the hockey… especially that they are really nice and good to other people.”
And proud parents they should be.