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On and off the ice, Dahlin inspired at development camp

Top draft pick turned heads during week in Buffalo

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Upon arriving in Buffalo for development camp earlier this week, Rasmus Dahlin said the first item on his agenda when he returns to Sweden would be meeting with his friends and enjoying their company. Who could blame him? With all the hype he's dealt with over the past month, he deserves a break. 

Dahlin is still looking forward to getting back home, but hearing him speak at the conclusion of camp on Saturday made it sound as if he's already itching to get back to Buffalo. The defenseman called it the best trip of his life, thanks in no small a part to the people who were here to welcome him.

Video: Rasmus Dahlin after 3-on-3 tournament

Fans packed Harborcenter for each on-ice session, where they reacted to Dahlin's every move. Many were already wearing his No. 26 jersey, an aspect of the week he was still trying to wrap his head around as he prepared to leave for Sweden.

"I'm just super impressed that they even know who I am," Dahlin said. "I know they love hockey. I will try to win hockey games, so you can give back to them. That's what I can do."

As impressed as Dahlin was by his new home, the mark he left over the four days of camp was equally inspiring. On the ice, the defenseman was every bit the competitor he was chalked up to be, willing to embarrass opposing skaters be it with open-ice hits or silky moves around the net. 

"He literally floats around out there," said forward Casey Mittelstadt, a prospect who exhibits his own jaw-dropping skills. "It doesn't look like he's trying at all and he's gliding by guys. It was pretty cool."

Matej Pekar had to learn about Dahlin's competitive spirit the hard way. The forward laid a hit on Dahlin during one practice session; the next day, Dahlin knocked him to the ice in the neutral zone with a hit that would spend the next 24 hours making rounds on social media. 

Video: 2018 Development Camp Day 3: Focus on Skills

"Well, I think it probably validates that we know how competitive of a kid he is," Sabres assistant general manager Steve Greeley said. "It seems like he didn't lose the number from the day before and certainly doesn't have a short-term memory. 

"But that's one of the attributes we loved about him is the compete level and I think we'll see that in September at camp. I think it's one of the things that does make him a very good player. His compete level is real." 

Off the ice, Dahlin flips a switch and becomes the humble, soft-spoken person you see in interviews. He and Pekar were sitting at a table together an hour after the hit, joking around. Dahlin described it to the media as something "that just happens sometimes" and made it clear that there were no hard feelings.

Greeley said Dahlin's maturity off the ice was what impressed the Sabres the most during the course of the week, something he communicated to Dahlin during their exit interview on Friday. 

"He was almost surprised when I told him that," Greeley said. Like, 'What do you mean? This is me.' But it's refreshing, right? He's a great kid, he's a humble kid, and this week he was just one of the boys which is really nice to see."

Video: Greeley sums up development camp

"It was inspiring," fellow assistant GM Randy Sexton said. "Very inspiring. He's a special player and he's a special person. That's why we're all so fortunate to have him with us and our fans are going to see him play for a long time to come. I don't have a better word than special."

Upon hearing Sexton's comments, Dahlin kept his focus forward. 

"Of course, that's very fun to hear, but it's what you do off the ice when someone doesn't see," he said. "It's fun to hear, but you have to put in work too after they said that."

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