With dark hair and dark features courtesy of an Iranian father and a Swedish mother, defenseman Daniel Rahimi doesn’t fit the mold of the stereotypical Scandinavian. He would certainly stand out in a crowd in a country known for blonde hair and blue eyes.
And now, as Canucks Prospects Camp continues in Victoria, the 20-year-old from Ufea, Sweden would love nothing more than to standout among the 25 hopefuls out on the ice. While some of the Canucks prospects come with a bigger buzz, none stands taller or carries a greater physical presence than the 6’3” 213 pounder who was a third round pick (82nd overall) in the 2006 National Hockey League entry draft. And perhaps none of the youngsters attending this weekend’s camp is more intriguing than Rahimi.
He’s a big man who plays with an edge. And when he hits you, he’s hoping you feel it for a while.
“I try to play pretty much physical,” he says, his relaxed, friendly off-ice disposition giving no hint of his aggressive style of play. “I try to be a stay at home defenseman who plays safe and throws some hits maybe if I have a good day. I like to give everything to the team.”
While it was another Swedish youngster – Alexander Edler
-- who came out of nowhere to make it to the NHL last season, Rahimi may be the guy to watch this year. After a couple of seasons with IF Bjorkloven in the Swedish Second Division (where he racked up 278 penalty minutes in 124 games), Rahimi packed his bags and chased his dream of playing professionally in North America. His trek led him to Winnipeg where he finished last year with the Canucks’ top farm team in Manitoba appearing in one regular season game and making four playoff appearances.
While he didn’t have a chance to put all of his skills on display in the limited time with the Moose, Rahimi believes the six weeks in the American Hockey League will help him immensely as he begins to work his way through the Canuck organization.
“I think it helped a lot because I’m much more prepared this year. It’s hard to say how I played, but I think I did okay. I just tried not to make mistakes and to play my game,” he says. “It’s a big difference. The rink is smaller and everything goes a little bit faster. But it was a great experience. It’s a big difference, but you need to get in sometime and I think it was a great opportunity last year.”
As he had with Edler two years earlier, former Canuck forward and now the team’s top European scout Thomas Gradin is the man who pushed for Rahimi in the 2006 draft. And so far, Gradin likes what he’s seen in the youngster’s development.
“I think he’s a good defensive defenseman who’s good enough to be delivering the puck. In the fast pace of the game today, defensemen need to have that fast delivery of the puck,” he says of Rahimi who represented his country at last year’s World Junior championship and who is ranked ninth among Canuck prospects by hockeysfuture.com. “Sometimes we would consider players of his size not able to do that. But he’s been able to do that at the junior level. He has to continue doing that now at the senior level.”
In an effort to develop, Daniel Rahimi will likely be keeping a close eye on veteran Canuck blueliner Mattias Ohlund over the next few weeks. He skated with Ohlund and some of the other Canuck veterans at 8-Rinks in Burnaby last week. And if all goes well this weekend, Rahimi will get the chance to share the ice with Ohlund when main camp begins on September 13th.
“I’m a big fan of Mattias’. He’s a great player and I’ve looked up to him since I was a little kid. He’s a great hockey player and I hope someday I can play with him,” says Rahimi, who admits being drafted by a team full of fellow countrymen has eased his transition to life on this side of the Atlantic. “It helps a lot. Eddie (Edler) has helped out with so many things and has been great to me. And now at camp I’ve met up with the other Swedes and they’ve been great to me.”
Now that camp is underway, Daniel Rahimi plans to do his best to make those around him -- and the Canuck coaching staff -- take notice of who he is and what he can do. He insists he won’t go out of his way to make a name for himself, but when the opportunities arise, expect bodies to fly.
“I don’t want to standout too much. I just want to play solid and do my game,” he says. “But, of course, sometimes I want to play pretty tough and make some hits and that’s a way to standout, too.”
Daniel Rahimi is clearly a guy to keep an eye on – whether you’re an opponent or simply a Canuck fan wanting to catch a glimpse of the hockey club’s future.
Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org