Toronto Maple Leafs Top Prospect Almost Wins MVP at the World Junior Tournament

Toronto Maple Leafs top prospect Rasmus Sandin nearly won the MVP at the World Junior Tournement.

The 2020 World Junior Championships (WJC) has wrapped up and Canada has won gold.  The Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t have any representation in that game. Unfortunately for them, their only remaining prospect played for third place.

Sweden’s top defenseman, Rasmus Sandin, was the last Toronto Maple Leafs prospect standing after USA’s Nick Robertson was eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Sandin had an excellent tournament, and most likely would have won the MVP if Sweden had won Gold.  He and his teammates on Team Sweden lost their semi-final match against the Russians relegating them to compete for the bronze medal.

Sandin was one of the best players at the WJC before his hunt for gold was cut short. Prior to his Sunday morning game against Finland, he led all defensemen in points for the tournament with nine. He even led for his position in both goals and assists. Overall, he was on the leaderboard at fourth in points. In the bronze medal game, he even added another point when he potted the Swedes’ opening goal.

Though he didn’t achieve the team success he wanted, Sandin should be very satisfied with his individual effort and performance in the Czech Republic.

The WJHC was a good experience for Sandin, giving him the opportunity to get exposed to more high stakes hockey. The tournament was a frustrating one for the 19-year-old who was a regular victim of slashes to the wrist. His teammates believed that he was targeted because he was Sweden’s best player.

Sandin was even forced out of the game against Slovakia because of a heavy slash he took to the wrist from forward Martin Fasko-Rudas.

Fasko-Rudas received a two-minute penalty for the infraction. Luckily, Sandin was hurt but not injured. He was able to return to action in the next game. This was a relief for not just Sandin himself, but also the executive team back in Toronto.

Sandin saved his best performance for the team’s most important game, the semi-finals. He was humming all game long, collecting a point on all four of Sweden’s goals. The defenseman chipped in with two goals and two assists.

The game was a wild one and probably the best of the tournament thanks to the non-stop action and back and forth production from both squads. Sandin was the player to kick off the craziness with a booming slapshot that found the back of the Russian’s net just 20 seconds into the game.

Sandin’s other goal came on a Swedish powerplay in the second period. Once again, he used his big shot to beat the Russian goaltender, Yaroslav Askarov. He tied the game at three at that point. Both teams added another marker to send the teams to overtime.

After a great back-and-forth battle, Russia punched their ticket to the finals on a goal from Ivan Morozov’s. It was his second of the game, coming at 3:24 of overtime. Sandin and the Swedes deserved better, though they didn’t come home empty-handed.

The Leafs can take solace in the fact that Sandin just became only the fourth defenseman in the last decade to record 10 points in the WJHC, and that the other three are legitimate #1 star players: Ryan Ellis, Alex Pietrangelo and Tomas Chabot.

What’s Next for Sandin

Sandin has spent the majority of his year playing for the Toronto Marlies.

The Leafs 29th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft was assigned to the AHL after the first six games of the season. With the big club he had two assists, five shots, and a team best possession rating.

With the Marlies, Sandin has been excellent. He has two goals and 12 points in 19 games and is relied upon to play in important situations by head coach Greg Moore. That confidence in him existed since last season when Sandin was given the chance to play on the powerplay.

There is a chance that the Toronto Maple Leafs recall Sandin to help them try and win the Stanley Cup this season. With Jake Muzzin out with a broken foot, there may be an opportunity waiting for Sandin.

If the Toronto Maple Leafs decide to bring him up, there are serious consequences for the move. Per the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, if he plays ten games in the NHL it would burn the first year of Sandin’s entry-level contract.

The Leafs would need to decide whether they are prepared to allow Sandin to become a restricted free agent one year earlier than his current track.

If he hits the ten-game mark this season then his contract will expire at the conclusion of the 2021-22 campaign. It would also mean that the Leafs would count Sandin’s $894,167 salary cap hit this season. There has so far been no indication of whether this matters to Brendan Shanahan and Kyle Dubas.

At worst, Sandin will finish the year with the Marlies. He should then get a shot at finding a permanent home on the Maple Leafs roster next year.

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If Sandin’s WJC’s showing is any indication of what he is capable of then he has a bright future on the top-pairing of an NHL team’s blueline.

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