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NHL Draft

Dahlin selected No. 1 by Sabres at NHL Draft

Defenseman is first Sweden-born player chosen with top pick since 1989

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

DALLAS -- Rasmus Dahlin became the first Sweden-born player in 29 years to be chosen No. 1 when the Buffalo Sabres selected him in the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on Friday.

Dahlin (6-foot-3, 185 pounds), a left-shot defenseman who was No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of International skaters, has been on the radar of NHL scouts the past three years and was projected to be the top pick of this draft the past two.

"Finally," Dahlin said. "I don't mean to … get drafted No. 1 but to just get drafted. It's been a dream since I was a little kid. It's been a long wait and you can't really plan anything, but like finally today I can plan my future and I love to call my new town Buffalo."

 

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Dahlin, 18, is believed by many NHL scouts to be a generational talent, having played against men for Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League as a 16- and 17-year-old the past two seasons.

"I have many emotions right now in my body; I'm trying to enjoy every second," Dahlin said.

A Sweden-born player had not been chosen No. 1 in the draft since 1989, when the Quebec Nordiques picked center Mats Sundin. The 1989 draft also produced Hockey Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom, a Sweden-born defenseman selected in the third round (No. 53) by the Detroit Red Wings.

"I actually don't remember hearing my name, but I'm so proud and happy to be the second Swede picked No. 1 in the draft," Dahlin said. "Mats Sundin is a legend in hockey, so it's really cool."

The Carolina Hurricanes selected forward Andrei Svechnikov with the No. 2 pick, and the Montreal Canadiens took center Jesperi Kotkaniemi at No. 3.

It was the first time Buffalo picked first in the draft since 1987, when it selected center Pierre Turgeon. Dahlin is the 19th defenseman the Sabres have selected in the first round in their history.

Dahlin will travel to Buffalo on Saturday and begin preparations for development camp, which is June 27-29.

Video: Sabres fans react to selection of Rasmus Dahlin

"I come from a small town in Sweden, too, so it feels like home when I'm [in Buffalo]," Dahlin said. "I know everything about the fans, and I know so many great things about how they love hockey and the organization is amazing. I'm so looking forward to getting there.

"I heard so many great things about [the fans]; they love hockey in that city, and I can see that. When they come to me, they know me and I don't even play in the NHL, so they probably love hockey."

Dahlin had 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists), a plus-4 rating and 84 shots on goal in 41 games this season, when he averaged 19:02 of ice time. He had 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) in 67 games for Frolunda, the most for an under-18 defenseman in the history of Sweden's top league.

He was named best defenseman at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship, when he had six points (all assists), 25 shots on goal and a plus-7 rating to help Sweden to a silver medal.

Sabres general manager Jason Botterill said he anticipates Dahlin will play in the NHL in 2018-19.

"It's a huge boost to us and what we're trying to accomplish, and we feel we have some very good young forwards in our organization right now, but we have to have more scoring from the defense," Botterill said. "You just look at how Rasmus has handled himself the last couple of years, playing in SHL and playing in the World Juniors, we feel he can step into the NHL next year and really add that offensive dimension to our back end."

Dahlin said he will try his best to make an impact in the NHL next season.

"I really hope so; I will try 100 percent to do that," he said.

Dahlin was the youngest player by seven years on Sweden's roster for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. He played two of the four games and had one assist and one shot on goal for fifth-place Sweden.

"I'm super excited to meet everyone on [Buffalo] and to try to get a spot on that team," Dahlin said. "That's my dream, to play in the NHL. I know a bunch of guys play on that team, and they are skilled guys. It's amazing to be part of that organization, and it's cool to play with those kind of guys."

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