With just over a week on the Capitals roster under his belt, defenseman Rasmus Sandin has made quick friends with fellow Swede Nicklas Backstrom.
Sandin has had nothing but praise for Backstrom since his first interview as a Capital. “I think he’s one of the best Swedes that we have and has had a terrific career,” Sandin said at the time, “I’m very excited to be teammates with him now.”
Wednesday morning, the Capitals held their first practice at MedStar Capitals Iceplex since the trade with Toronto. There, Sandin spoke on his growing relationship with the Caps’ alternate captain.
“He was a guy I looked up to when I was younger,” Sandin explained, “Right now, it’s pretty easy to look up to him still: What a player he is and what a guy he is.”
Sandin followed in Backstrom’s footsteps before joining the NHL, with both players spending time with the Brynäs IF organization in Gävle, Sweden. Both also had the opportunity to play for Sweden in the World Junior Championships, where Sandin was named the best defenseman of the 2020 tournament.
Now, Backstrom has taken the 23-year-old defenseman under his wing to ease the transition into a new team. Sandin is grateful for the assistance: “[Backstrom has given] a little extra help and it’s very comfortable to come here when he’s around and showing me around, helping me out.
“I knew him a little bit before, but right now it feels like I’ve known him forever. It’s awesome to play with him now.”
In Sandin’s first two games with the team, he and Backstrom have played on the ice together for nearly nineteen minutes, including 5:36 on the power play. It was there, when the Caps were up 5-on-3 against the LA Kings, that Sandin and Backstrom teamed up to assist on an Ovechkin goal.
Sandin has embraced a larger role in Washington’s lineup. After playing mostly third-pairing minutes in Toronto, he has quarterbacked the team’s first powerplay unit and averaging 23:23 TOI in two games with the Capitals.
“It means a lot,” Sandin said of the change. “It’s obviously very fun that they have that belief in you. Now it’s up to me to keep playing good to stick in that spot…It’s fun that the coaching staff believes in me, for sure.”
Though the Caps have just returned from an extended stint on the road, Sandin is already looking forward to the next set of away games–the team’s annual Dad’s trip. Even with the short notice, his father Patric hopes to fly out to join his son for the second time this season.
“I mentioned it a little quick to him, and he seemed very excited,” said Sandin. “He’s done one already this year with Toronto. Must have been the first time ever that a dad is doing two dads’ trips. Yeah, he seemed very excited about it.”
Despite the surprise of the trade, Sandin seems to have already settled onto the Caps roster.
“I think it’s really, really fun,” he said, “Just getting in here you see how tight this group is. It’s just so great to be a part of. Since I came into the first breakfast, all the guys on this team have welcomed me with open arms. They’ve been making it very easy for me, and it’s just a lot of fun to be here.”
Headline photo: Katie Adler/RMNB
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