2022 Player Report Card: Rasmus Dahlin

<em>D-man has had struggles but his star is finally rising</em>

Our Buffalo Sabres 2022 player report cards continue today with a look at defenseman Rasmus Dahlin.

Total Season Stats: 80 GP, 13 G, 40 A, 53 PTS

Age: 22

Contract Status: Signed through 2023-24 ($5.8 million 2022-23, $7.2 million 2023-24) RFA after that

Rasmus Dahlin is one of those pieces the Buffalo Sabres gambled on to build their team around. Dahlin first caught the team’s and fans’ attention in 2018, when he competed for Sweden as part of the World Juniors. The junior finished the tournament with six assists as the WJC’s top defensive prospect.

His competitive nature became apparent to everyone on and off the ice. After Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman and fellow Swede Victor Hedman praised Dahlin’s skills, Dahlin brushed off the flattery, saying “It’s fun to hear, but...it’s tough, it’s just so tough (Winning gold) was everything to me. So to come so close” he tried to explain. Sweden lost to Canada, 3-1 in the title game and the hyper competitive junior had trouble getting over it.

The Sabres’ managers liked what they saw and drafted him as their first pick overall in 2018. Dahlin came to Buffalo with high expectations that he’d help turn a struggling franchise around, much like Jack Eichel was supposed to do on offense.

For his first few years, Dahlin struggled to live up to those high expectations. He shared in the Sabres’ embarrassing back-to-back losses against Tampa Bay at the Global Series in Stockholm in 2019. He got injured, he got Covid, or at the very least, tested positive. He didn’t play a full season for over two years.

Dahlin suffered through the team’s seemingly endless misfortunes. For a time it looked like he was just another over-hyped prospect that didn’t work out. When the Sabres fired Ralph Krueger and replaced him with assistant coach Don Granato, the dark cloud hanging over Dahlin gradually lifted.

The new head coach told the defenseman to just play his game and Dahlin did. He stopped hesitating and started setting plays up and finishing them. His confidence improved, his ability improved, and his numbers improved. When the Sabres traded Rasmus Ristolainen to the Flyers, Dahlin took over as the Sabres’ best defender. He played so well he earned a place as Buffalo’s 2022 NHL All Star representative.

No. 26 has turned into an offensive-defensive player who performs just as well in his opponent’s zone as he does in his own. Able to make things happen on any part of the ice, Dahlin has learned how to take advantage of opportunities and go the extra mile. A great example is the goal he made on a cross-ice pass with a broken stick against the Devils late in the season:

Rasmus Dahlin has come a long way in just a few years. The once teenage rookie, is, at 22, now a mentor to the Sabres’ newest D-man phenom Owen Power. Dahlin has shown recently he has what it takes to win and the Sabres’ gamble on this prospect has finally paid off.

Season Grade: A

Grade Rasmus Dahlin on his 2021-22 season.

A - excelled above expectation258
B - did better than expectation263
C - met expectation66
D - did worse than expectation8
F - did much worse than expectation3