Looking into Rasmus Dahlin's resurgence
The Buffalo Sabres defenseman records a career season along with his first all-star nomination after a lackluster 2020
CC: Buffalo Hockey Beat
BUFFALO, N.Y, (April 22, 2022) - Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin had a much-needed resurgence this year after struggling in the shortened 2020 season.
The Sabres drafted Dahlin with the first overall pick in 2018, out of the Frölunda Hockey Club in the Swedish Hockey League, he was named one of the three finalists to the Calder Memorial Trophy, given to the best rookie. Given Dahlin's impressive resume, Sabres fans had high hopes for their number one pick.
In 2019 and Dahlin recorded only 40 points on four goals and 36 assists. In the shortened 2020 season, he recorded 23 points on eight goals and 15 assists. He also had the worst +/- rating of his career with -36. Fans said he lacked awareness on the ice, allowing easy goals.
Sabres fans felt it was a major regression from his days in the Swedish Hockey League.
Some fans contributed his struggles due to the shuffling of lines from then head coach Ralph Kruger while others pointed out the negative feeling from a toxic locker room environment.
Even after the Sabres promoted Don Granato to head coach for the 2021 season, Dahlin started the season slowly. He allowed two short-handed goals on Nov. 29 against the Seattle Kraken and Sabres fans booed him throughout the rest of the game.
However, Dahlin got back on track, recording 36 points on eight goals and 28 assists, including a game-winning overtime goal against the Vancouver Canucks.
As the season continued, Dahlin showed more of his athleticism and puck handling, being able to slide through opposing defenses and make efficient shots. To Sabres fans, he started playing like he was pre-NHL.
The 22-year-old got voted to his first all-star game, participated in the accuracy shooting challenge and even got named alternate team captain on many occasions.
Back in March, Dahlin said working with Granato helped him grow a lot as a player and person as a player.
"The last three years I haven't shown my real self," he said. "I hate losing and I hate when stuff doesn't go my way and that's how I am. I'm getting more comfortable, so I guess I'm showing the other side of myself too."
On Thursday, April 21, Dahlin recorded a goal and assist against the New Jersey Devils, adding to his season total of 40 assists and 12 goals. In the previous two-game series against the Philadelphia Flyers, he scored one goal and two assists, making him the first Sabers' defenseman to pass the 50-point mark since Gary Galley in 95-96.
Granato spoke about Dahlin after the team's win over the Flyers on Easter Sunday, saying he's becoming more confident one game at a time.
"What we really wanted to unleash was his competitiveness just worry about anything but competing and immersed in the moment," he said. "He's been able to accelerate progress from that point."
Granato spoke with the Buffalo News about taking the pressure off Dahlin and new defenseman Owen Power to turn this team into a playoff contender, something that Sabres fans thought would happen when Dahlin first joined.
“Nobody has to be the savior,” said Granato. “This group is going to do it together and they’re building together. You can see the camaraderie and the passion that they have for each other and to put that jersey on. It’s fun to be a part of as a coach. … And obviously, when you add talent, and we feel like we have a lot of talent, though it’s young at this point, there’s always that energy and excitement for us as coaches knowing each day they are getting better.”
Dahlin hopes to carry on his success into next season and help the Sabres break their playoff drought.
"I'm young, I've been competitive all year," he said. "Thanks to Don I've been able develop for sure."