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Westerlund's game grew from playing with Dahlin in Sweden

Coyotes defenseman prospect hopes experience with No. 1 pick in 2018 NHL Draft will speed development

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

KAMLOOPS, British Columbia -- Filip Westerlund is hopeful lessons learned from watching teammate Rasmus Dahlin will help him make an NHL roster someday.

Westerlund (5-foot-11, 180 pounds), selected by the Arizona Coyotes in the second round (No. 44) of the 2017 NHL Draft, played 52 games with Dahlin the past two seasons for Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League. Dahlin was selected by the Buffalo Sabres with the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.

 

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"The thing I learned from watching [Dahlin] was how calm he was in big situations," Westerlund said. "He was able to do whatever he was thinking so well. It was incredible to watch him play."

Dahlin represented Sweden at the World Junior Championship the past two years and was named the tournament's best defenseman this year when Sweden won a silver medal.  

Westerlund, 19, is representing Sweden at the World Junior Summer Showcase this week at Sandman Centre. The four-team development camp, which includes practices and games against the United States, Finland and Canada, is the first step in picking rosters for the 2019 WJC, which will be in Vancouver and Victoria Dec. 26 to Jan. 5, 2019.

The right-handed shot is projected as a top-four NHL defenseman, but might need two more seasons of development in the SHL.

"I'm a two-way defenseman, but with the world junior team I think I'll have more of a defensive role because we have so many offensive defensemen," Westerlund said.

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Sweden National Junior Team coach Tomas Monten is hopeful Westerlund can take that next step.

"[Westerlund] was in a tough spot and didn't get to play in Frolunda that long since he was playing a lot of junior hockey (in Sweden's SuperElit)," Monten said. "After the [2018 WJC] he was loaned to a second-division pro team (Bjorkloven of Allsvenskan) and his game took off.

"I think he'll be a top-six defenseman in Frolunda this season."

Gaining that experience will only help develop and prepare him for the rigors of the NHL. He joined other prospects during Arizona's development camp June 25-29.

"I felt really good at development camp," Westerlund said. "It was my second year. Last year was more about learning about the organization, and this year I felt a lot more comfortable in what I was doing; had more confidence."

Westerlund was one of the last cuts from Sweden's WJC roster last year. Monten said his staff chose Linus Hogberg (Philadelphia Flyers) over Westerlund as the seventh defenseman for the 2018 WJC because he impressed with more minutes in a shutdown role for Vaxjo (SHL). 

"It was my goal last year to make this team but now it's more like a revenge situation for me," Westerlund said. "I want to get on the team and be a big leader."

Monten understands there will be an adjustment on defense without Dahlin, but he's confident in his group.

"You're not going to find a Dahlin, but hopefully you can find seven good defensemen," he said. "I was really lucky to get to coach [Dahlin] twice at the world juniors. He's an unbelievable kid and great player, and I think he'll do fine in Buffalo.

"I think we have good options on defense this year. We have a couple of younger defensemen that could step up."

He's hopeful Westerlund will be one of them.

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