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2018 NHL Draft prospect profile: Rasmus Dahlin is in a league of his own

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There’s little doubt that the Swedish defenceman will be the first to the stage on June 22.

Patrik Bexell

It was supposed to be a two-horse race, with Andrei Svechnikov set to put up a big challenge for the position of consensus first overall pick. But in the end, Rasmus Dahlin has separated himself from the pack to be the clear favourite to go number one in the 2018 NHL Draft. As one scout put it, “He would go as number one if he chose to play as a forward, too.”

Birthplace: Sweden
Shoots: Left
Position: D
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 192 lbs.
Youth team: HC Lidköping, Sweden
Pro team: Frölunda HC, SHL

Dahlin made his debut in the professional ranks as a 16 year old; one of the youngest ever to suit up in the Swedish Hockey League. He broke the mould when he suited up in the WJC at that age, and then shattered it altogether when he got selected to the Swedish Olympic Team in PyeongChang.

What has been said about the big defender could already fill a book, and he just turned 18 a few days ago. He has a fluid style of play, and sometimes it seems that he can see the game at another speed than the others on the ice.

While he is a defender, Dahlin’s highlight reel mostly consists of his skill in the offensive zone, something that has made his stats stand out at every level.

Image credit: Elite Prospects

Having bulked up in the summer, it helped Dahlin develop into a more complete player, and the defender mostly known for his daredevil style of play in the offensive zone took his biggest step on the defensive side of the puck this season. One of his most underrated skills is his physical play. Players in Frölunda describe it as “hitting a brick wall” or “being run over by a truck” after having been hit by Dahlin in practice.

Rankings

Future Considerations: #1
Hockey Prospect: #1
ISS Hockey: #1
McKeen’s Hockey: #1
NHL Central Scouting (EU Skaters): #1

Thoughts

Dahlin has outperformed himself this season and built up his body with one goal in mind: playing in the NHL. Having watched him extensively over the last two years, I can say that he is ready to compete at the highest level.

His strength lies in his understanding of the game and the vision he possesses, which makes him stand out in all situations on the ice. His physical game is underrated because of his awareness and hockey mind; he doesn’t have to use it as much because of his other strengths. This might change with a move to smaller rinks, and it could surprise quite a few people when he comes across the Atlantic.

While every highlight reel will include his dangles in the offensive zone, his defensive work is very good. It’s something that was visible in this year’s World Junior Championship, where he took a more defensive role than the previous year, claiming the award as the tournament’s best defenceman.

That focus on defending was the same in the SHL, yet Dahlin still matched Victor Hedman’s draft-year output, and doubled what Erik Karlsson recorded the season after being selected in the first round by the Ottawa Senators. It is against these two Swedish defencemen that Dahlin is being measured as a prospect, something that should bode well for the team that drafts him.

His weakness was said to be a tendency toward a high-risk game, and that’s something that has also changed this past season. Dahlin isn’t afraid to play a safer style — he is keenly aware that not every play has to make the highlight reel — but Frölunda has asked him to play that more-involved game at all times because that’s where his strength lies.

From my point of view, the biggest weakness for Dahlin is his shot. It is not a heavy slapshot that he possesses, but rather an accurate release in a similar style to Niklas Lidström’s (who also had a heavy slapshot besides). Dahlin’s attempts on goal are surgical strikes for a deflection, or well-placed shots rather than ones relying on sheer force.

I have no doubt that Dahlin would be a perfect fit on any team. He is the perfect mould of the new defenceman that will rule the NHL for the foreseeable future. His vision, skating, and passing should make him a cornerstone for any team to build a Stanley Cup contender.