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Buffalo Sabres Top 25 Under 25, #2: Rasmus Dahlin

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After a slow start, the young defenseman put together an impressive season

Pittsburgh Penguins v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Rob Marczynski/NHLI via Getty Images

The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Die By The Blade community. It was a combination of seven staff writers and over 250 fans that ranked players under the age of 25 as of July 15th, 2020. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production to rank each player. This is our 2020 pre-draft rankings.

After a slow start to the season, Rasmus Dahlin churned out a very strong second-half to cement his place at number two in our Top 25 Under 25 series. At only 20 years old, the young defenseman should have a seat near the top of these rankings for years to come.

Bringing with him a 1st overall draft pedigree, Dahlin has lived up to the standard as he quickly climbed his way atop the defensive depth chart. After an impressive rookie year - where he registered 44 points - the slick defenseman improved upon his points-per-game in his sophomore year. Had he played 82 games this past season, Dahlin was on pace to score 55 points. This was despite manning the point on a powerplay that struggled for the majority of the season.

When searching for league comparisons for Dahlin, this year’s rookie class of Cale Makar, Quinn Hughes, and Adam Fox may come to mind. In fact, Makar’s 50 points in 57 games and Hughes’ 53 points in 68 games were very impressive for rookies, and topped Dahlin’s first year totals. However, it’s important to remember that Dahlin was 18 in his rookie season, while Makar turned 21 and Hughes 20 not long after the start of this past season. Adam Fox managed 42 points in 70 games, and turned 22 in February of this year.

So where is Dahlin currently in terms of his prospects? Well, frankly, he’s already elite. As you can see in the graphic below, his probability of becoming a star in the league is on pace with hall-of-famer Ray Bourque, per HockeyProspecting.com:

The key for next season is finding the appropriate defensive partner for Dahlin’s right side that can handle big-time minutes. He is expected to assume top minutes on the team, and there are currently some questions as to what new GM Kevyn Adams will do with the Sabres’ right handed defenseman.

Both Rasmus Ristolainen and Brandon Montour are rumored to be on the move, leaving Henri Jokiharju and Colin Miller as the only right-handed defensemen on the current roster. Dahlin and Miller seemed to hit a groove towards the end of the season, so perhaps they stick together. An upgrade may be in store as well, or even possibly a promotion, as our Chad DeDominicis suggests in his offseason projection 3.0.

What can we expect point-wise from Dahlin next season? Well, with the current arc he’s on, along with a projected bounce-back from the top powerplay unit and a bump in minutes played, Dahlin is projected anywhere from 60-65 points. Point totals like that could start putting him in discussion around the Norris trophy, assuming his defensive play doesn’t dip. At only 20 years old, Sabres fans should be very pleased with the gem they have in the young defenseman.