The NHL held its annual Draft Lottery on Saturday night, with the prize being Swedish wunderkind Rasmus Dahlin. Let’s take a closer look at the best player available and the best defenseman to come along in years.
The NHL is trying its best to compete with the NFL, clearly. Instead of simply telling us the order in which teams will pick for the draft, they’ve decided to turn it into an event. Not only was the Lottery itself marketed for primetime, but they made us wait even longer to find out the top three. Luckily for the Buffalo Sabres, they won’t need to think too long about their selection after coming out on top. Unless they go mental, the consensus pick is defenseman Rasmus Dahlin and it’s not close.
Who is this kid though? What’s the hype?
That’s the hype. All of that. And he’s a defenseman. Yikes.
Dahlin is currently 18 years old and is expected to become the first Swedish-born player drafted number one overall since Mats Sundin went to the Quebec Nordiques in 1989. In an era where offensive-minded defensemen are almost a requirement to succeed as a club in the NHL, Dahlin has the tools to be not only an elite player in his own zone, but his ability at the other end is jaw-dropping.
At the recent World Junior Championship, he popped six points in seven games for Sweden. He was only 17 at the time. Playing for Frolunda HC, he’s been making people look beyond ridiculous, as seen in the clips above.
He has puck-handling skills that rival most forwards. His shot is absolutely lethal. At 6’2 and just over 180 pounds, he also isn’t afraid to throw around his body, though he could add more strength to his frame. All of that makes him sound like a guy more focused on offense with some defensive ability. Nope. He’s smart in his own end. He’s also aware enough to get back and still make fantastic defensive plays when caught up ice. When we talk about can’t-miss prospects, he’s it. The kid is special and the Sabres should be jumping for joy.
It’s difficult to put into words how exciting Dahlin is. His being compared to Victor Hedman and even Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom should tell you a lot. Buffalo is going to have an immediate top pairing defenseman who could and will be vying for Norris Trophies for the next twelve to fifteen years.