The Toronto Maple Leafs may be on the verge of a big breakthrough in training camp, although there is still time yet before the start of the 2019 - 2020 National Hockey League regular season.
As is the case in every training camp across the National Hockey League right now there are a ton of young players out there trying to make it into the NHL, but the reality for most of these young NHL hopefuls is that they simply will not have what it takes to break into the big leagues. Every year dozens of players from each team are sent back to their respective organizations after having failed to impress enough in camp to warrant an NHL roster spot, but every once in a while there is a player who defies all expectations.
Although it may still be somewhat premature to characterize any player as a potential breakout star for the upcoming season, it certainly sounds like the Toronto Maple Leafs have all the ingredients for such a surprise at training camp. In a recent article published for Sportsnet, NHL insider Chris Johnston touched on the rise of 19 year old Maple Leafs' defenseman Rasmus Sandin and all indications are that this kid is going to be special. You don't have to take my word for it however, as several high profile members of the Maple Leafs organization were quick to heap praise on the young blue liner.
“This kid’s nasty,” said Toronto Maple Leafs' star Auston Matthews as per Johnston. “I was really impressed with him last year, honestly. It’s fun getting out there with a guy like him because he can see the ice, he jumps in and is smart about when he jumps in on offence and when he doesn’t.
“Obviously breaking out of our own end, I mean, he sees it. He makes plays that not many people can.”
That is terrific news for a team that has several core members of it's blue line playing on expiring contract, as well as for a team with well over $30 million per season invested in their 3 top forwards. Perhaps even more impressive than earning the praise of his teammates however is how well Sandin has been able to impress the organizations coach, Toronto Maple Leafs' bench boss Mike Babcock. Babcock is known for being a stern and no-nonsense type of coach who expects his players to be on at all times, with or without the puck, but it sounds like Sandin has had no trouble impressing his potential future head coach.
“All you’ve got to do is watch him,” said Babcock. “He’s smart, he knows how to play, he’s got a feel. He’s one of these guys it doesn’t seem to matter how old he is because his hockey sense is so good.”
“I think he’s like that every night,” said Babcock. “He’s comfortable all the time. It doesn’t seem to matter what level he’s at.”
Sandin has been spending significant time over the summer with Maple Leafs' forward William Nylander, and perhaps for that reason Nylander knows better than anyone what this kid is bringing to the table.
“He’s looking great,” said Nylander.
It's still early and there is no guarantee that Sandin makes the team, but it certainly sounds like things are trending in that direction.