By Colleen Meosky
As any Buffalo sports fan knows, success is fleeting. For the Buffalo Sabres, the past seven years have certainly had ups and downs. The team has failed to make the playoffs since 2011, yet fans have experienced glimmers of hope in the likes of high draft prospects. When Buffalo started its first rebuild of this era, the organization collected players whose hype was incredible: Rasmus Ristolainen, Sam Reinhart, and Jack Eichel. With none of them on this year’s roster, it’s clear that the original rebuild failed. However, with a younger ensemble of talent, Sabres fans may finally see the light at the end of the tunnel while watching this year’s roster develop, and it all starts with the 2018 1st overall pick.
Rasmus Dahlin is beginning to flourish into the elite defenseman he has been projected to be. Earlier this month he represented Buffalo at the NHL All-Stars in Las Vegas. Dahlin ranked 4th out of 9 participants in the accuracy shooting challenge and was the sole defenseman in the category. The Swede has shown truly remarkable success already in his early career. He surpassed the legendary Bobby Orr to rank second in points by an 18 year old NHL defenseman during his rookie season, and Dahlin has been a consistent point leader for Buffalo this season.
Moreover, his excellent leadership has been noticed this year with him earning the position of alternate captain(at only 21 years old). Dahlin has needed time to strengthen his defensive game, as to be expected. Some fans have judged him too harshly for his defensive errors. All young players require opportunities to strengthen their game. Unfortunately, mistakes can be far more glaring for a defenseman, but Dahlin has established himself as a persistent and eager learner.
With his smooth skating ability and impressive(albeit developing) hockey sense, he has been quarterbacking the Sabres power play. Heading into the All Star break, Dahlin had 28 points and several highlight-worthy plays, including his stellar one-touch pass to assist Jack Quinn with his first goal in the league. He has been the go-to man for Buffalo in all situations, averaging around 23 minutes a game. Take it from his own hero, Victor Hedman after the All Star game. “He’s a great kid soaking it all in. That was his first time but plenty more to come for that guy.”