Defenseman, Rasmus Dahlin
DOB: April 13,2000 (age, 18)
Draft: 2018, 1st-overall
How acquired: Drafted by Buffalo
Last contract signed: 3y./$11.25 million ELC ($925K/yr. base salary)
Final year of contract: 2020-21
2018-19Stats: 82 games | 9 goals | 35 assists | 44 points | -13 | 21:09 ATOI
Buffalo Career Stats: Rookie
What we wrote preseason: This should be the one and only time that Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin will be placed this low (second-pairing) in the lineup heading into a season. When Dahlin hit the ice in Buffalo for development camp the skills he displayed were that of a forward with skating that was fluid and fast. For those who were seeing him for the first time live, it was a wonder to behold his hip movement, stickwork and angles on defense showing that he's not just a pure offensive-defenseman.
As an 18 yr. old rookie, Dahlin will have a lot to work on and will go through a lot of growing pains but his skating alone will ease the workload and dull some of the pains. He has a poised demeanor on the ice (and off the ice as well) projecting a confidence in himself and his skill-level. Hockey, unlike other North American pro sport, is usually spot on when they dub draft prospects as franchise-changers. They don't come along that often but when they do, if you're lucky you'll be in a position to land one.
What we wrote mid-season: Most of the time we forget how young Dahlin is while marveling at some of the things he does on the ice. The top overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft is only a few months into his NHL career but the way he's adapted to the game has been impressive. The Sabres have eased the 18 yr. old into more ice-time and more responsibility and Dahlin has impressed every step of the way. Although he has made rookie mistakes, sometimes many of them in one game, he keeps on keepin' on and plays an extremely poised game. Dahlin is mobile and smooth-skating, has a high hockey IQ, is a wizard with his stick and has an overall skill-level worthy the all the pre-draft hype thrust his way. He already has 20 points on the season (4+16) which is good for second on the team amongst defensemen and third in the league amongst all rookies and though he still has a lot of learning to do, Dahlin has the wherewithal and drive to get there. Perhaps the biggest hurdle he's facing right now is dealing with the grind of an 82-game NHL season and some of that began to show a few games ago. Coach Phil Housley dialed things back a bit with a third-pairing designation in Saturday's game and Dahlin came through with a plus-1 rating an his first goal at home.
Impressions on his play this year: Yeah, he's all that, and it was a pleasure to watch what he had to offer which included incredible poise for a teenager playing a big role on the blueline. As one would expect from an 18 yr. old, Dahlin did get burned on a number of occasions most of which had to do with underestimating the speed of his competition and not taking the proper angles, something that every rookie NHL d-man struggles with. Other problems Dahlin faced had to do with his puck-carrying which centered around him trying to do too much like going 1-on-3 or more on the rush when it might have been better to get teammates involved. When he tried to force the issue like that, most times it ended up with a turnover.
Having said that, Dahlin played in all 82 games, the first time an 18 yr. old defenseman has ever done that in the NHL and his 44 points were second all-time for an 18 yr. old behind only his coach, Phil Housley (57) a defenseman who's defense was so bad as a rookie that Hall of Fame head coach Scotty Bowman moved him up to wing for a portion of the season. Dahlin has all the offensive upside Housley displayed as an 18 yr. old and is already better in his own zone.
Questions moving forward: Can he shrug off the turbulence of a losing season while also seeing his coach fired? Who will the new head coach be? Will said coach be able to refine Dahlin's game a bit beginning next season? How much can he improve in the defensive zone? How will he handle the brunt of carrying the d-corps as a 19 yr. old? Did he get a good feel for the grind of an NHL season and how will he manage it better next season?
Contract info via CapFriendly, stats via sabres.com and hockey reference.com.