Enter Sandman: Rasmus Sandin Poised For Full-time Role For The First Time In His Career

Photos: NHL via Getty Images

Rasmus Sandin is heading into the 2023-24 campaign with the Washington Capitals with a lot of expectations. After being traded to the Capitals at the trade deadline from the Toronto Maple Leafs, in exchange for Erik Gustafsson and Boston’s 2023 first round pick (acquired in the Garnet Hathaway and Dmitry Orlov trade), the Swedish defenseman is looking forward to being in a top-four role for the first time in his career. 

 Rasmus Sandin: 2022-23 Washington Capitals Season Review

The 23-year-old had an instant impact when he made his Caps debut on Mar. 4, against the San Jose Sharks, becoming the first defensemen in franchise history to record three points in a team debut. Two days later he scored his first goal in a Capitals uniform against the Los Angeles Kings along with tallying an assist.

Sandin finished the season with 35 points (seven goals, 28 assists), and 15 points (three goals, 12 assists) with D.C. Considering that the Caps were missing their top defenseman in John Carlson, and traded another top guy in Dmitry Orlov, the 5-foot-11 rearguard showed that he is ready to take a big step heading into his first full season with Washington.

The left-shot defenseman can be a very good compliment to Carlson on the first pair. From the limited time they played together, the duo had an xGF of 52.4%.

The big thing for the Swede heading into the new year is cleaning up his defensive game. Sometimes he was caught flat-footed in the defensive zone and wasn’t very good with his gap control, so a new structure and system should benefit him this season.

Another thing for the former first-round pick to look forward to is reuniting with Spencer Carbery, who was an assistant coach with Toronto and ran its power play during Sandin’s last two years with the Leafs. He had four points on the man-advantage with Washington and is likely going to be on the Caps’ second unit this year. 

“I think he’s going to do great things for us and going to be a real good addition to our team. I’m looking forward to working with him, he’s really good at separating outside the ice, and walking in in the morning, he’s just a normal guy,” Sandin said on the 32 Thoughts podcast with Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek of Sportsnet.

As soon as you step on the ice or [going into a game or practice], it’s different. I feel like that’s a really good thing that most players enjoy playing for and I’m really excited to play for him again.”

Sandin is entering the final year of his contract, but it is safe to say that president of hockey operations and general manager Brian MacLellan will want to lock him up long-term. He seems to be the future No. 1 defensemen when Carlson’s career comes to an end. 

“Right now I feel great, feel stronger than ever, and excited for the season to start,” Sandin said. 

By Jacob Cheris

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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5 Responses to Enter Sandman: Rasmus Sandin Poised For Full-time Role For The First Time In His Career

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hmmm, I’d pump the breaks on him being a future No. 1 defenseman. Of course, this depends on what we mean by that term: sometimes it just means the best D on the team, sometimes it’s used to describe the powerplay quaterback (he’d certainly qualify by that definition). But to me a true “No. 1 defenseman” is a guy who plays 25 to 30 minutes a night, goes up against the opposition’s best line, quarterbacks the power play and plays on the penalty kill. Think Doughty, Hedman, Josi, etc (for a bizarre stretch just after “The Letter” the Rangers used Neil Pionk that way even those his metrics were pathetic).

    I think there’s also a significant break between guys who can play on the 3rd pair and guys who can play on one of the top two pairs. Most NHL teams have significant star-level players on their top two forward lines. A defenseman on the 3rd pair can be sheltered from those guys; a guy in the top two pair can’t.

    While Sandin certainly had some nice moments for us last year, I don’t think he’s yet shown he can handle being on one of the top two pairs. Toronto always sheltered him on the 3rd pair (even with Babcock really liking him). Being caught flat-footed and struggling with gap control are significant structural flaws for a defenseman asked to go up against one of the opponent’s top two lines.

    My hope is that a lot of his defensive struggles were related to having to play in a new-to-him system that employed a lot of man-to-man concepts. Although it’s subjective and impressionistic on my part, I remember there being a lot of moments when Sandin would remain in his place near the goal while his man would circle out, and then would realize that was his guy and he was supposed to have stayed on him. In other words, it didn’t seem to have anything to do with a lack of talent or ability, just delayed reaction times and not being able to play instinctively. I remember Jensen also struggled for a while when he first came over. If my impression of this is right, hiring Carbery could fix this problem overnight.

    In any event, it will be a big season for Sandin and this is one of the main story lines I’ll be watching

  2. Anonymous says:

    Greetings Caps fans, and welcome to the 2023-24 season! 🙌

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  3. Anonymous says:

    It’s go time for Sandin

  4. DWGIE26 says:

    Sandin is a good young talent. I think he is top 4. So is Fever. Iorio and Chesley coming up.

    For this year I would like to see:
    Alexyev (with hopefully some spot duty to get games before needed)

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s my take, and AA 7D until he is comfortable (this season) to take over role on third pair with TVR

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