He was 16 then...
“It feels exciting when so many good players talk about me,” [Dahlin] said. “It’s amazing. I’m feeling like I want to be better and better and better because I’m on a good path, and why stop? You know what I mean? I can’t explain it in English but, like, when I hear that, I get a boost inside me and just go out and train and work hard.”
This parts for you pi
Dahlin also contradicts the stereotype of Europe-based defensemen needing time to adjust to the North American-sized ice surface, which forces them to make much quicker decisions as forecheckers harass them in the corners. The last 18-year-old rearguard to jump from playing in a Euro league directly to the NHL in his draft year was Aki Berg 23 years ago, unless you count Oliver Kylington getting one game in 2015-16. Luca Sbisa, Rostislav Klesla, Nikita Zadorov and Mikhail Sergachev fast-tracked to the NHL at 18 but played their draft years in major junior. Hedman went right to the NHL but was 19. As Ronnberg explained, Dahlin is set to buck the trend of learning curves for Euro-league imports because he does his best work in tight spaces. He excels in the more claustrophobic drills at practice and in any games Frolunda plays on smaller ice surfaces because he makes smart decisions so much faster than the average player.
So what, then, is a fair expectation for Dahlin in 2018-19? The Calder Trophy? The greatest rookie year by a defenseman this millennium? It’s tough to marry hype with realistic expectations. Given the overwhelming praise for Dahlin’s game, 40 points doesn’t sound like asking too much, does it? And yet, amazingly, only two rookie defensemen in NHL history have topped 40 points after starting a season 18 years old: Hall of Famers Phil Housley (66) and Bobby Orr (41). Ekblad’s epic freshman campaign in 2013-14 yielded 39 points. Only five teenaged defensemen have won the Calder Trophy – Orr, Ekblad, Ray Bourque, Berard and Tyler Myers, and only Orr and Ekblad did it in their age-18 seasons. So expecting or demanding the Calder out of Dahlin is asking him to be, well, legendary in Year 1. Then again, every bit of analysis from those scouting and coaching him thus far says he will be just that.
Whatever Buffalo asks of Dahlin, none of the conjecture seems to faze him. He instead uses it as kindling. He says he can’t wait for the opportunity to go up against the best players in the world.
Are his nerves really that steely? If McDavid zooms into his zone, will Dahlin really think, time to take him out, and not, Oh, s--t?
“I would think both things,” said Dahlin with a hearty laugh. “ ‘Oh s--t, he’s coming,’ and then I would think, ‘I have to get him.’ ”
Edited by WildCard, Today, 09:16 AM.