Report: Leafs first round pick appears to be headed back to Europe.

Leafs prospect bolts for Europe.

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A Toronto Maple Leafs prospect appears to be leaving North America, at least for the time being. 

According to a report from Murray Pam of Sporting News Canada, Toronto Maple Leafs first round draft pick Rasmus Sandin will not be returning to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League for a second season. Instead Pam reports that Sandin is headed back to Europe where he will play in the Swedish Hockey League with his former team Rogle BK. 

The move has caught many by surprise given the strong ties that Toronto Maple Leafs general manager has to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, but this may simply be a question of what will be best for Sandin's long term development prior to entering the National Hockey League. In the SHL Sandin will find himself playing against grown men and will likely face both faster and more physical opposition than he would in the Ontario Hockey League and that alone may be the primary motivation behind his decision to continue developing in Sweden. 

Now at this time there's still no guarantee that Sandin will be playing with Rogle due to the convoluted nature of NHL contracts with European based players but he has already started playing in their presason games seemingly preparing to play for the organization in the 2018 - 2019 SHL season. In theory the Leafs could still assign him to the Toronto Marlies and that may still be an option that they consider moving forward but I suspect that given his play with Rogle in the preseason already the Leafs are fine with letting him develop there.

It's important to remember that Sandin is only 18 years old and very few NHL defensemen actually get a shot at the league at so young an age. Often defensemen take several seasons more to develop in smaller leagues before making their debut in the National Hockey League. It's unclear at this time how far away Sandin appears to be from making the jump but his play against grown men this season will likely dictate how the Leafs plan to move forward with the young man.

Sandin got a taste of the action in the SHL last season with a small 5 game sample size and he recorded no goals and his only point was a lone assist. He finished that little stretch with a plus minus rating of -2 but again he is very young and this far too small a sample size to judge him on.