- DOB: 4/13/2000
- Team: Frölunda (SHL)
- Defenseman | Shoots: L | 6’2”, 185 pounds
- 2017-18 Stats: 41 GP - 7G, 13A, 20 points, 20 PIM
As the placard for the number one overall pick turned over following the most drawn out NHL Lottery Draft in recent history, Canes fans, although ecstatic with picking second overall, knew they had missed out on the ultimate prize in the summer of 2018. That prize is Rasmus Dahlin, who if things go as they should will be patrolling the Buffalo Sabres’ blue line for years to come.
With Dahlin, we’ve heard all the superlatives, but it’s rare to see a prospect with so much promised piled on his shoulders since he was a 15-year-old actually live up to the hype. He has done more as a prospect already than most will do in their career: from playing in the World Juniors as a 16-year-old, to being an Olympian as a 17-year-old, the blueliner has passed every test placed in front of him.
It’s easy to spot Dahlin any time he is on the ice, because of the fluidity of his skating and the plays he makes both in transition and in the offensive zone. When transitioning from defense to offense, the young Swede is a one-man breakout, using his puck handling ability to keep defenders off balance while moving into the offensive zone with pace. He has the ability to make the breakout passes that will be much more important to his game when making the jump to the smaller ice of the NHL.
When in the offensive zone, he does a terrific job at freeing himself to create angles, allowing pucks to get past defenders and onto the frame of goal. Without the puck, his movement both at even strength and on the power play show a level of instinct not found in many players of any age. His processing of the game is at an elite level, and when you can get that kind of special understanding from a defenseman, especially at this age, it is all the more rare.
Like with any supremely talented offensive player, the defensive side can be overlooked when talking about how a prospect projects to the next level. Dahlin has made great strides defensively over the last two years, and is solidly built as a foundation to make the NHL adjustments necessary.
My biggest fear is that some of the natural ability that Dahlin possesses will be coached out of him, especially once he arrives in North America and onto a smaller ice surface. He is a player that you build a system around, not pigeon-hole into playing a role.
I assume if Buffalo could have made the pick at the Lottery, they would have. With as much blueline help as they need, and with Jack Eichel and Casey Mittelstadt as the future of their forward group, there should be no other pick. Expect Dahlin to be in a Sabres uniform starting in the fall.
And if not, if the Sabres galaxy-brain their way out of the biggest no-brainer at the top of the draft since Connor McDavid, the Hurricanes will gladly reap the benefits.