Rasmus Sandin can recall playing forward with defenseman Rasmus Dahlin for Sweden at the World Selects Under-13 Invitational in 2012-13 as if it were yesterday.
"We were selected as defensemen but the coach needed [Dahlin] to play center after an injury to one of our players," Sandin said. "So that just showed how much they valued his skating and offense, even as a 10-year-old."
Dahlin, who played two seasons for Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League, is the odds-on-favorite to be picked No. 1 by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2018 NHL Draft. The coach had Sandin play as Dahlin's right wing on a few of the shifts during the nine-game tournament in Russia.
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"I only played a couple shifts with him; I guess I wasn't that good up front," Sandin said with a grin.
As smooth a skater as Sandin is, he has been so much more valuable as a defenseman for Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League. He's No. 11 on NHL Central Scouting's final rankings of North American skaters eligible for the 2018 draft. The first round of the draft at American Airlines Center in Dallas is June 22 (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS). Rounds 2-7 are June 23 (11 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVAS).
"I remember playing with Sandin in that U-13 tournament," Dahlin said. "He was great already as he is now, and I remember he had a [heck] of a shot."
Sandin got an opportunity to play with his older brother, Linus, in five games for Rogle of the SHL to begin this season before joining Sault Ste. Marie on Oct. 18 in attempt to become acclimated to hockey in North America in his draft-eligible season.
"The coach for Rogle asked if I would start the season there since the team had injuries to a few defensemen, so I looked at it as a perfect opportunity to play against men for the first time and get a chance to play with my brother," Sandin said. "I learned a lot, but I had my mind set on coming over to North America and playing hockey in Canada after Rogle got their defensemen back."
The decision benefited Sandin as well as Sault Ste. Marie.
Sandin (5-foot-11, 186 pounds) led all OHL rookies with a plus-35 rating, and led all OHL rookie defensemen in goals (12), assists (33) and points (45) in 51 games. He led all OHL rookies with 12 assists and 13 points in 24 OHL playoff games.
He had one assist, a plus-2 rating and one shot on goal for Team Don Cherry in the Sherman-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at Sleeman Centre in Guelph, Ontario, on Jan. 25.
"[Sandin] is a great player and has been a key addition to our team," said Sault Ste. Marie center Barrett Hayton, No. 9 on Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters. "He's very smart and can create plays. He's helped our team a lot."
Sandin, a left-handed shot, had 21 points (four goals, 17 assists) during Sault Ste. Marie's 23-game winning streak from Oct. 28-Dec. 30.
Sandin, whose style has been compared to Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith, offers good hockey sense, competitiveness and passing ability.
"His hockey IQ is off the charts," said Karl Stewart of NHL Central Scouting. "You can't hit him; he's so elusive and mobile. He's got eyes in the back of his head and he never puts his teammates in a bad spot with the puck. When he passes to his winger, they have time and space to do something with it.
"There's a lot of upside here because he'll add strength and weight, and he can already quarterback a power play."
Sandin, who said he enjoys watching NHL defensemen Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators, Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators and Cam Fowler of the Anaheim Ducks, is also good friends with Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Robert Hagg.
Sandin closely watched Hagg's development through Sweden's junior leagues. Hagg played with Sandin's brother, Linus, for two seasons with MODO's junior team in the SuperElit from 2012-14.
"I remember [Rasmus Sandin] always being the small guy but you could see he was talented from the beginning," Hagg said. "I played with his brother, Linus, in Sweden and Rasmus was always the little brother who tagged along with us older guys. You could see then he was a good skater with good hockey IQ and, lately, I've seen his shot (via OHL highlights) and it's pretty good."
Sandin became a full-time defenseman when he was 11 after his coach noticed how effective he was at the position.
"I'm a two-way defenseman, a good passer and a smooth skater," Sandin said. "I like to join the rush and make my teammates better. I try to keep my game simple and want to be used in all situations, including power play and penalty kill."