Dahlin is a special player

May 02, 2018 - 5:32 pm
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The Buffalo Bills hope they drafted their long sought after franchise quarterback last Thursday. Perhaps the Buffalo Sabres got the hockey version of a franchise quarterback thanks to ping pong balls.

The Sabres won the draft lottery this past Saturday, and with the first overall pick, they will be expected to take Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. He is considered an elite-level player just waiting to happen on the NHL scene. Comparisons are being drawn to top-level NHL blue liners like Erik Karlsson and Victor Hedman.

Dahlin has played for Frölunda in the Swedish Hockey League the last two seasons. His coach, Roger Ronnberg, was a guest on the WGR morning show on Wednesday and used the quarterback term to describe his style of play, which is now the type of defenseman every NHL team wants.

"He is one of them. He can control the game from the back end. He controls the rhythm over the puck” Ronnberg said. "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 as the best quarterbacks in the National Hockey League today.”

Dahlin came to the Swedish Hockey League, which is considered one of the top leagues in the world after the NHL, at the tender age of 15. When he was 16, Dahlin became the youngest player to ever play for Sweden in the IIHF Under-20 World Junior Championship. He was the youngest player overall at the 2017 World Junior Championship, and when he earned a spot on Sweden’s Olympic team back in February, Dahlin became the youngest player in the Olympic men's hockey tournament since 1984. Having watched him day in day out for the last two years, Ronnberg knows Dahlin is a special player.

"He has the edge that the best players have. He's a true winner. He wants to win in everything he participates in,” Ronnberg said. "He's so stubborn. He's the most stubborn player I ever coached. We were practicing today and it was like a war out there and he was in the middle of it. Every practice, every sitation he is there stepping up for his team and he wants to win the game for them. He has the character the best Swedish players have had and I coached Peter Forsberg and those guys.”

When asked if by stubborn did Ronnberg mean they ask Dahlin to take it easy every now and then and he won’t do it, Ronnberg replied, “Every day.”

There’s no question about Dahlin’s offensive game, but how is he in his own end? Ronnberg told us he’s most satisfied with the improvements Dahlin has made in that area the last two years. Dahlin has a good frame standing at 6’ 2” and weighing in at around 185-pounds. Ronnberg knows he will get bigger and admits he needs to get stronger to help the physical part of the game necessary in the NHL.

"He's strong enough to play against mature guys here in Sweden. He can stop them and he can separate them from the puck. He's good enough right now to play a solid defensive game. He's not a hitter yet, but I know with his temper he loves to hit. When he gets bigger, I expect you will see a lot of nice open ice [checks]."

Ronnberg has been to Buffalo once as coach of Sweden’s World Juniors team. Ronnberg also coached against current Sabres head coach Phil Housley in 2013 when he lost to the United States in the gold medal game. Ronnberg told us he was talking to Dahlin on Wednesday about what he can expect from Buffalo and Housley. You can hear that answer and the rest of the interview with Ronnberg:

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