There will be at least one NHL superstar competing at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Rasmus Dahlin may be just 17 years old and several months away from being the No. 1-overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, but the precocious Swedish defenseman has already made his first Olympic roster.
There won’t be a more exciting player in the tournament.
Yes, the Olympic athletes from Russia’s team will have KHL stars like Ilya Kovalchuk. Team USA will have Brian Gionta and everyone’s favorite waiver claim Mark Arcobello. Canada will have Derek Roy, Rene Bourque, and Wojtek Wolski. These are guys you’ve probably heard of.
But now that Dahlin has officially made Sweden’s roster, it’s possible we look and remember this as his tournament. We won’t recall how lame it was that the NHL didn’t send its best to represent the world. We’ll celebrate how, in their place, we were treated to a three-week sneak peek of the best defenseman of his generation.
Dahlin has the potential to make that kind of statement in Pyeongchang. He’s already playing among men in Sweden, where he has a key role for Frolunda HC in the SHL. He recently looked exceptional at the World Juniors, where Sweden won the silver medal. It’s hard to envision anyone else having their name called first by Gary Bettman at the draft in June.
Watch TSN analyst Ray Ferraro look almost dumbfounded trying to describe what it was like watching Dahlin for the first time.
You can experience that, too!
This is the kind of over-the-top praise that usually elicits eye rolls around the hockey community, but not with Dahlin. Ferraro says Dahlin reminded him of the legendary Niklas Lidstrom? Well, Lidstrom himself agreed, and offered Brian Leetch as another comp. You know, just a couple of Hall of Famers. If anything, Dahlin is seemingly a combination of these traits, a type of defenseman we’ve never quite seen before.
It’ll be impossible not to notice Dahlin whenever he’s on the ice. That was often the case at World Juniors, and while the level of competition will be higher with older, more experienced players in Pyeongchang, Dahlin’s combination of skating and puck handling from the back end will be unmatched.
These Olympics were never going to be short on great stories with so many new players sharing in the dream. The fun of a ragtag American team taking on a bunch of Russian superstars nearly 40 years after the Miracle on Ice wouldn’t be lost on anyone. The wide open nature of the tournament will undoubtedly lend itself to some incredible moments.
But the star power will be seriously lacking compared to past Olympics that had Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, Henrik Lundqvist, and others taking center stage for their teams. Outside of Russia, which has a bunch of KHL stars to turn to, most of these rosters are made up of players who never dreamed of playing in an event like this. Nobody will doubt the passion and intensity of the players involved, but the talent level clearly won’t be the same.
Dahlin will be, in so many ways, the exception to the rule in Pyeongchang. He’s going to be the youngest player in the tournament. He’s going to be in the NHL very soon. And he’s going to be the most talented player there. You won’t want to miss it.