Sabres' Dahlin really enjoyed his first NHL season

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Photo credit Photo: Kevin Hoffman - USA TODAY Sports
Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - Rasmus Dahlin is one of the three finalists for the NHL’s Calder Trophy that recognizes the rookie of the year.

Dahlin was very good this season, but I don’t think there’s any question that the best is yet to come.

The Swedish defenseman was 18-years-old throughout the season and he made plays that others just can’t make. He also struggled in his own end at times as his young body got overpowered, or he’d try to force things that weren’t there.

The Sabres had no defensive structure whatsoever, so I have to believe a new coach will help him with that.

Dahlin led all Sabres defensemen with 44 points. He said he liked his first season in the NHL, “For me, a young guy new to the league, a rookie, it’s been so much fun for me.

“For me to come to a new country and all that stuff, I learned so many things, so yes, it was amazing, but hockey wise, we didn’t play how we wanted to play, so I want to play better next year, but for me, outside of hockey it’s been amazing and I learned so many things.”

Last season, Dahlin played in the SHL, so every day life in the NHL is quite a bit different. He said many things surprised him this season, “Yes, we have a pretty good plane, we stay at pretty good hotels, I mean I had super high expectations when I came here, but it was all so much fun.”

My question was really about on the ice, but I’m glad he addressed what he did. As far as an on the ice adjustment, Dahlin said, “To play against the best players in the world like when McDavid gets his speed, it’s not that easy, but I learned a few things on the ice like the small ice, playing against bigger players, better players, faster so it’s the next level.”

Dahlin admitted there were times he was in awe of playing on the same ice with some of the world’s best players. He said, “It was amazing. I was thinking back to the season and I’m thinking I’m actually playing in the NHL. It’s a weird feeling, but I’m super proud to play against all those players.

“I usually come out on the ice during warm-ups and look at what they do and maybe being star struck, but after a few shifts, you’re in it and not thinking about it.”

It’s so nice to talk to Dahlin and youngsters like Casey Mittelstadt, Lawrence Pilut and Victor Olofsson. They don’t bring one ounce of entitlement to that locker room and you can tell just by reading Dahlin’s comments.

The biggest minus for Dahlin and Pilut were teams figured out that if they came at them hard, the two of them would shy away from being hit and in Pilut’s case, give the puck away. There are times Dahlin had a little pushback and he said getting some bulk will be a top priority, “My strength will be a big part. I have to get bigger and stronger to skate better.

“I need to be stronger in the D-zone and I have to have a better shot (Especially the one-timer which he has very little experience with), but my main focus is strength.”

Dahlin does not set goals when it comes to points. He said there are plenty of other things to worry about, “I’m not thinking that much on points. I want to play like a leader, I want play good in D-zone, play good in both ends, so I’m trying to focus on how I play, not the points.”

Dahlin learned to to let his mistakes take him over. He said, “Before the season I talked with a mental coach on how to handle stuff and I got more mature this year and they tell me every game that I can’t get down on myself. It’s a long season and one mistake, it’s nothing, so I just tried to refocus and try to make the next play.”