Total Season Stats: 82 GP | 9 G | 35 A | 44 PTS
Contract Status: 2 years left, entry-level contract, $925,000
Rasmus Dahlin did everything you could expect out of an 18-year-old defenseman in his first season in the NHL - and he did it pretty darn well.
Dahlin, who turned 19 as the Buffalo Sabres’ season ended, became the first 18-year-old defenseman in NHL history to play 82 games. That’s right - NHL history, not just Sabres franchise history. With 44 points in his rookie season, he was second all-time in points by an 18-year-old defenseman, and averaged over 21 minutes of ice time.
Dahlin finished the season fourth on the Sabres in points, and tied for 16th in the NHL among defensemen, with other notables like Jacob Trouba, Ryan Suter, Erik Karlsson and Mattias Ekholm putting up similar numbers. And of course, he led all rookie defensemen in points, with 11 more than Dallas’ Miro Heiskanen.
But Dahlin proved himself to be more than just an offensive defenseman in his first NHL season. He was a powerhouse on the man advantage, with nearly half (20) of his points coming on the power play. His CF was over 57%. Among rookie defensemen, only Heiskanen played more minutes overall this season.
All of this in his first season, coming off a couple years with Frolunda in his native Sweden. In his last season overseas (2017-18), Dahlin put up 20 points in 41 games, and also appeared in six playoff games.
Of course, as can be expected with any rookie player, even one as highly touted as Dahlin, he wasn’t perfect. There were some growing pains, and some moments where he showed his young age and inexperience with things like giveaways or otherwise bad plays. But all things considered - especially taking into account how rough a season the Sabres as a whole had - Dahlin’s numbers are impressive.
What matters now is, of course, how he transitions to his second season and carries over some of the positive attributes from this past season. Working on his speed and shot will only make him an even better player as he continues to develop.
Dahlin also could’ve extended his season with a chance to represent his country at the 2019 IIHF World Championships, but will not play for Sweden.
Whether he wins the Calder Trophy or not, the real prize here is Dahlin himself, who should be a joy to watch in the Sabres blue and gold for years to come.
Season Grade: A
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