Dialed in on Dahlin

This will get you ready for Friday night

Howard Simon
June 21, 2018 - 11:02 am

Photo: Mark Blinch - The Canadian Press via AP

It's almost "D Day", or in this case, "Dahlin Day".

Friday night just after 7 p.m., the Buffalo Sabres will make Rasmus Dahlin the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NHL draft. Then we can let the fun begin. Actually, we can let the fun continue since it began the night the Sabres won the draft lottery.

Within minutes, I was on the internet finding any clips of Dahlin that I could and there was no shortage of wow plays. Once I saw those, I knew we had to get as many guests on our show as possible that had seen Dahlin play in Sweden. To a man, all of the guests raved about the 18-year-old defenseman, and it made me even more excited to see him go from Swedish blue and gold to Sabres blue and gold.

I decided to go back and listen to some of those interviews to get myself pumped up for Friday night. I thought I’d share some of my favorite comments from those guests with you.

***By the way you, can find all of these interviews in our On Demand audio section.


Roger Rönnberg is the head coach of the Frölunda Indians in the Swedish Hockey League. Dahlin played the last two seasons for them, but he also played for Sweden at the IIHF World Junior Championship the last two years. We asked Rönnberg what he thought made Dahlin so special:

"He can control the game from the back end. He can control the rhythm of the puck. He knows when to slow it down and when to speed it up. He’s so skilled over the puck so he can also be the difference maker scoring by himself or making guys score. He’s on the same level with the best quarterbacks (offensive defensemen) in the National Hockey League today.”
Dahlin was 15-years-old when he first joined Frölunda, and Rönnberg knew pretty quickly the kind of talent the youngster possessed.
"Right away from the first scrimmage, he was faking on the blue line, one forward was stepping out and he was gone. He was pump-faking the second guy and he scored a beautiful goal and he was as glad as if he scored in the Stanley Cup Final. It just continued from there. In practice, he was doing amazing things with the puck that I haven’t seen. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a defenseman playing with that skill set.”

Pär Johansson has been the defensive coach for Frölunda, for the last three seasons. One of the traits he likes the most about Dahlin is his work ethic and constant drive to get better.

"He’s the guy I watched the most video with my entire career.  We watched every single shift he played for our men’s team. He wanted to break down every single piece of it. He just wants to learn. On road trips, on the bus on the way home we’d watch that game or we did it the day after. The same with the home games. We watched every single shift and talked about it. He would say should I have done something different here, should I box out? And the same thing on the ice. If he feels like he had a slump for a couple of games he just wants to go out and practice even more.”
Former Sabres defenseman Mike Weber played briefly for Frölunda this past season. Weber was there for about eight weeks and played in 10 games before suffering a career-ending knee injury. Weber was able to give us the perspective on Dahlin from the point of view of a former NHL player and he has no doubt Dahlin will be an impact player in the league.
"His skating ability, the heads up hockey, he never looks at the puck. He’s always looking what play he can make and what’s available. Then if he makes that play how can he get available again, slash himself into holes and take advantage of defenders. I compare his escapability to playing against [Pavel] Datsyuk. You’re going to hit Datsyuk and you think you have him lined up and he does 10-and-2 and he does a hip move and you miss him. That’s similar to what [Rasmus] has. And then his compete, there were times on the bench where he’d come off and he wants to make something happen every shift and you look at him and say, 'you don’t have to do it every shift, just pick your spots.' He wants to get it done every shift and he has that drive and that competitiveness, and you can see it in his eyes. He just wants to be the best and that’s what is exciting to me. He’s a kid you can build a team around. He should be in Buffalo his entire career.”
Matt Donovan was one of Dahlin’s teammates along the blue line at Frölunda the last two seasons. Donovan, who played with the Rochester Americans in the 2015-2016 season, was a guest on the Schopp and the Bulldog show this week. As a veteran hockey player, Donovan was asked if he was skeptical about all of the hype surrounding Dahlin:
"No. I got to see first hand kind of like with [Connor] McDavid. Everyone saw him coming up and he was unbelievable. I think Dahlin is kind of on the same scale. He’s playing with grown men and doing really well and making grown men look silly. I have zero skepticism with [Rasmus] and I think he’ll do really well and be a really good player for a really long time.”
Donovan, who logged 67 NHL games, brought up McDavid again when he talked about the skills that make Dahlin such a rare commodity.
"He does everything well, but the one thing that sticks out to me is his puck handling and the way he sees the ice. Some people compare him to McDavid with the way he moves the puck, the way it's always on his stick and you can’t get it off. When I played against him in practice, it was like nothing I had ever seen before, the way he moved with the puck. You didn’t know what he was going to do with it. You didn’t know where the puck was going to go. You didn’t know where his body was going to go. He’s so fluid with the puck. That’s the one thing that I tell everyone that I’ve never seen anyone handle the puck like him.”
Sean Bergenheim played over 500 NHL games in his career, but spent the last two seasons playing for Frölunda. When we asked Bergenheim to use one word to describe Dahlin, he went with exceptional.
"Some humans are just born with some exceptional skills and he just has that. You see him on the ice and he has puck control and he just sees the game quicker than other players do. You see special players like Sidney Crosby and all these guys who are the top players and they have that extra something. That’s what you see in him for sure. He’s definitely a player that you don’t see come along too often.”
Let the next countdown begin. The Sabres' home opener is October 4th. I’ll bet there will be quite a few fans wearing Dahlin jerseys in the building that night.
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