Rasmus Dahlin joins Sabres at training camp

The defenseman is looking forward to playing again with Henri Jokiharju
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Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – Rasmus Dahlin made his first on-ice appearance at Buffalo Sabres training camp on Friday. Dahlin traveled from Sweden to Florida so he could be close when he finally agreed to a contract.

“That was my big thing, to be close and be here for the start of camp. I’m super happy that I got the deal done,” Dahlin said following Friday's session.

Dahlin said he was open to all options, but is happy with the three-year contract he got.

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Dahlin was the first overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. He says being the young kid in the room is over with now.

“That’s all in the past, and there’s a lot of baggage that comes with being a phenom," said Sabres head coach Don Granato of Dahlin on Friday. "A lot of times, it pulls you out of the moment, because you feel like you’ve got to live up to something. But we’ve tried to distance him from that. Let’s find out who you are, because sometimes you don’t give yourself a chance to be who you are because there’s so much, and you’re in the light and it’s bright on you.”

Heading into Year 4 in the NHL, Dahlin knows he can no longer be that wide-eyed young kid anymore.

“My first three years I was here to see and learn, but all that is done now and I need to take more responsibility in the locker room and on the ice too," Dahlin said. "I need to be more of a leader, and I want to be a guy you can trust in every situation.”

Under Ralph Krueger, Dahlin and Henri Jokiharju were struggling quite a bit. It got so bad, people were talking about if it would be better to get them some time in Rochester.

Once Granato took over for Krueger, he took the two struggling defensemen and put them together. There was a method to his madness, and it obviously worked.

“The stress they endured at the NHL level, I felt they could overcome that with the skillset they have," Granato explained. "So putting them together after watching them struggle, I thought they had each other, which is good. That helped us as coaches, saying, ‘You two guys can do this. We’re going to give you the information, but you’re the talent' and they responded.”

Dahlin doesn’t need to hear about every little mistake, and he likes how Granato let players figure it out for themselves.

“I think 99% of the time you know that you did a bad thing, so you don’t always have to hear it. But I like it, because I’m a guy that likes to try stuff," Dahlin said. "When 'Donny' lets me play, I get more confidence.”

Another reason why the pairing of Dahlin and Jokiharju works is the play totally different styles. Granato says it makes for good chemistry on the ice.

“They both have a deep care for their responsibilities, and 'Joki' is a little more conservative by nature," Granato said. "We know 'Dahls' is the opposite by nature, as far as the style that they play. So I did feel 'Joki' would look after 'Dahls' in certain situations and vice-versa in different ways.”

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Dahlin believes there are other reasons why he plays well together with Jokiharju.

“We have a great relationship off the ice, and we talk a lot," he said. "We’re kind of the same age, and we grew up playing against each other on the [Swedish] National Team.”

Jokiharju, the native of Oulu, Finland, is 10 months older than Dahlin. He believe the pair are doing well together because the fun is back in the game.

“I think we just have fun out there," Jokiharju said following Friday's practice. "We wanted to play with each other even at the start of the year, but we both just knew that sooner or later when we get the opportunity, we’ll play good hockey together.”

Being good friends off the ice seems to fuel them on the ice. Jokiharju says the more they talk, the more it helps their game.

“Especially off the ice, sometimes we’re just hanging around and some ideas just pop into your head and we’ll say, ‘Maybe we can do this too,’” he said.

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The Buffalo Bills under head coach Sean McDermott built a culture that has made the team one of the best in the National Football League.

Dahlin is confident that he and the younger players can try to do the same thing with the Sabres.

“We can build something new here, a new culture. That’s what I’m most excited for," Dahlin said.

“We hang out all the time off the ice. We are a tight group, and we know what we expect from each other. So we really want to turn this around, and we really want to be a winning team.”

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With Rasmus Ristolainen and Jake McCabe gone, Dahlin is going to get a lot more ice-time this season. With that in mind, he spent a lot of the offseason working on his conditioning.

As I look at the defensive depth chart for Buffalo, I see Dahlin playing with Jokiharju, Robert Hägg with Colin Miller, and Will Butcher paired up with Mark Pysyk.

Mattias Samuelsson and Jacob Bryson are both very much in the mix. If one of them breaks into the top-six, Miller could act as the seventh defenseman.

The Sabres are off from practice on Saturday, and then have the Blue and Gold scrimmage Sunday evening.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Paul Hamilton (@pham1717)