- There was little surprise with the top pick in Friday's NHL draft with play-making defenseman Rasmus Dahlin going No. 1 to the Buffalo Sabres.
After what seems like years of hype surround Rasmus Dahlin, it was finally the young Swedish defenseman’s day on Friday in Dallas.
The 18-year-old was taken with the top pick at the 2018 NHL draft by the Buffalo Sabres, fulfilling the longtime expectation for the blueliner many scouts describe as a generational talent, a smooth-skating, play-making defender.
He’s drawn lofty comparisons to fellow Swedish defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom, Victor Hedman and Erik Karlsson. He’s the first Swede to go No. 1 since forward Mats Sundin was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques in 1989.
Dahlin nows joins a Sabres franchise that’s been stuck in a rebuilding phase despite having a top-10 selection in each of the last six drafts, including No. 2 picks Sam Reinhart (2014) and Jack Eichel (2015). Buffalo’s newest player is adamant that he can help the cause right away.
“I think I’m ready right now to play in the NHL,” he said ahead of Friday’s first round.
Dahlin excelled in the Swedish Hockey League over the last two seasons, racking up seven goals and 20 points with Frolunda in 2017-18, taking home Junior Player of the Year honors. He also was the youngest men’s hockey player at the PyeongChang Olympics in February, getting in a pair of games and adding an assist for Tre Kronor.
While he'll get plenty of opportunities in Buffalo, the team plans to help Dahlin navigate a new league.
“Well, obviously, he’s a special player, we don't want to put too much pressure on him,” Sabres coach Phil Housley told NBCSN’s Kathryn Tappen. “He’s a young man, were gonna put him in areas to succeed. With his talent and skill level, he’s going to really have an impact on our team and our organization.”
If Dahlin was a lock for the No. 1 pick, the Carolina Hurricanes had an equally easy choice at No. 2, taking Russian right winger Andrei Svechnikov. He potted 40 goals and 72 points in 44 games with the OHL’s Barrie Colts this past season, taking home the league’s Rookie of the Year title while quickly rising up the prospect rankings. He brings a combination of speed and power that makes him an offensive weapon, though he also prides himself on his two-way play.
Rounding out the top three, Montreal selected center Jesperi Kotkaniemi, filling an organizational need down the middle with a 17-year-old prospect who notched 10 goals and 29 points in 57 games with Assat of the Finnish League. He’s a highly-skilled, creative forward with a dangerous shot that’s still filling out his 6’2” frame.
Here's how the rest of the first round of the 2018 NHL draft shook out on Friday:
|2018 NHL Draft: First-Round Picks|
|1||Rasmus Dahlin, D||6'2", 185 lbs/Frolunda HC (SHL)|
|2||Andrei Svechnikov, RW||6'2", 192 lbs/ Barrie Colts (OHL)|
|3||Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C||6'2", 183 lbs/Assat (FIN)|
|4||Brady Tkachuk, LW||6'3", 191 lbs/ Boston University (NCAA)|
|5||Barrett Hayton, C||6'1", 185 lbs/Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)|
|6||Filip Zadina, LW||6'0", 196 lbs/Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)|
|7||Quinn Hughes, D||5'10", 178 lbs/Univ. of Michigan (NCAA)|
|8||Adam Boqvist, D||5'11", 165 lbs/Byrnas (SEL)|
|9||Vitali Kravtsov, RW||6'4", 183 lbs/Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL)|
|10||Evan Bouchard, D||6'2", 196 lbs/London Knights (OHL)|
|11||Oliver Wahlstrom, RW||6'1", 207 lbs/USNTDP (USHL)|
|12||Noah Dobson, D||6"3, 176 lbs/Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)|
|13||Ty Dellandrea, C||6'0", 183 lbs/Flint Firedbirds (OHL)|
|14||Joel Farabee, LW||6'0", 161 lbs/USNTDP (USHL)|
|15||Grigori Denisenko, LW||5'11", 172 lbs/Loko Yaroslavl (KHL)|
|16||Martin Kaut, RW||6'2", 176 lbs/HC Dynamo Paradubice (CZE)|
|17||Ty Smith, D||5'11", 176 lbs/Spokane Chiefs (WHL|
|18||Liam Foudy, C||6'0", 174 lbs/London Knights (OHL)|
|19||Jay O'Brien, C||5'11", 176 lbs/Thayer Academy (USHS)|
|20||Rasmus Kupari, C||5'11", 163 lbs/Karpat (FIN)|
|21||Ryan Merkley, D||5'11", 170 lbs/Guelph Storm (OHL)|
|22*||K'Andre Miller, D||6'4", 198 lbs/USNTDP (USHL)|
|23||Isac Lundestrom, F||6'0", 183 lbs/Lulea HF (SHL)|
|24||Filip Johansson, D||6'0", 176 lbs/Leksands IF (SEL)|
|25^||Dominik Bokk, RW||6'1", 176 lbs/Vaxjo Lakers HC (SHL)|
|26*||Jacob Bernard-Docker, D||6'0", 187 lbs/Okotoks Oilers (AJHL)|
|27||Nicolas Beaudin, D||5'11", 172 lbs/Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)|
|28||Nils Lundkvist, D||5'11", 172 lbs/Lulea HF (SHL)|
|29^||Rasmus Sandin, D||5'11", 185 lbs/Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)|
|30||Joe Veleno, C||6'1", 172 lbs/Drummindville Voltigeur (QMJHL)|
|31||Alexander Alexeyev, D||6'4", 196 lbs/Red Deer Rebels (WHL)|
* OTT trades No. 22 pick to NYR for Nos. 26 and 28
^ TOR trades No. 25 pick to STL for Nos. 29 and 76