The Toronto Maple Leafs are changing up their lineup a bit with the news that defenseman Travis Dermott will be out with a bit of an injury. Blueliner Mikko Lehtonen will slot in Saturday, and potentially expecting a bit of criticism for the swap, head coach Sheldon Keefe commented on the status of prospect Rasmus Sandin.
As per Kristen Shilton of TSN, Keefe said Dermott will not play, Lehtonen will go in against Vancouver and Sandin is still very much on the Maple Leafs radar. Keefe noted, “Right now, it’s Mikko’s time”, then added, “We haven’t forgotten who Rasmus is. His time will come.”
Of course, this still won’t sit well with some Maple Leafs fans who will argue that Sandin needs his time to come, and soon. If it doesn’t, they’ll ask what the point of having him with the main roster is. Some might even suggest he’ll eventually request a trade, as seems to be the going trend in the NHL these days.
For those in Leafs Nation who are worried about it, the key to remember here is that Sandin is just 20 years old. He would be in the AHL right now if not for the pandemic and this all really just boils down to him being one of many players across the NHL stuck in a tough developmental spot under these strange COVID-19 circumstances.
In any other year, Sandin could, and likely would be playing 25 minutes per night with the Marlies and because he’s not playing at all, it’s natural to get nervous or think that his development is being stunted.
Keefe Still Trying to Figure Out What Lehtonen Is
What Keefe probably meant when he said this is Mikko’s time now, is that the team and the coach still doesn’t really have a good read on who or what Lehtonen is as a regular player. The club still needs to evaluate the defenseman and he is on a one-year deal in a shortened season. The Leafs window to watch him closely isn’t large.
At the end of this season, Lehtonen becomes a UFA. Conversely, Sandin is under contract for a few more years as an RFA and there’s a lot more time to evaluate the defenseman.
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