Rasmus Dahlin played his first game in a Buffalo Sabres sweater on Friday, and could not have made a better impression.
Dahlin, finally set to enter the NHL after two years of hype, took the ice as part of the Prospects Challenge, one of many rookie tournaments currently ongoing as the pre-pre-season gets underway.
The No. 1 pick got started with a big hit on 25-year-old Ryan Schmelzer in the first period. Dahlin’s physicality doesn’t get talked about as much as his all-world vision and puckhandling, but… maybe it should?
The second period saw the 18-year-old reach the scoresheet for the first time, sliding into the offensive zone, shielding the puck and wristing one off a Devil and in.
His second goal came on a rebound, after a great pass in the neutral zone set up Myles Powell for a chance.
A breakaway pass to Tage Thompson (the 20-year-old centre acquired as part of the deal that sent Ryan O’Reilly to St. Louis) nabbed Dahlin his first assist, and third point of the night in what was a resounding success of a debut for the kid who will soon be making those passes to Jack Eichel in games that actually matter.
Aaron Ekblad was the last defenceman to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie, having done so in 2014-15, but even in what looks to be a loaded rookie class it’s tough not to make Dahlin the front-runner for the award this year.
It should be noted that the level of competition at these rookie tournaments is far, far away from what Dahlin will face this season, or even at NHL training camp.
But until we get there, might as well enjoy what we have.