From an NHL perspective, all eyes were on projected No. 1 draft pick Rasmus Dahlin, who cracked Sweden’s Olympic roster at just 17 years old. Despite the fact he’s the youngest player in the men’s hockey tournament, there’s little doubt Dahlin is ready to jump straight to the NHL next season, so it was anticipated he’d play a role for the Tre Kronor in Pyeongchang.
And he still might. But through two games Dahlin has seen a little more than four minutes in total ice time. In Sweden’s first game against Norway, Dahlin didn’t play at all. The team made him a healthy scratch before its 4-0 win.
“He’s one of eight defencemen. We can only dress seven,” Swedish coach Rikard Gronborg said after the first game. “He’s a tremendous hockey player. There’s no question about it. I don’t think you need me to tell you that. But he’s also 17 years old.”
The seven defencemen getting ice time and a start over Dahlin were Staffan Kronwall, Mikael Wikstrand, Patrik Hersley, Johan Fransson, Simon Bertilsson, Erik Gustafsson, and Jonas Ahnelov, who have a total of 157 career NHL games between them. Four of them are over 30 years old and most are respected veterans playing in various European leagues. But with 17 points in 35 games with Frolunda in Sweden’s top league, Dahlin is being outscored by only three of Sweden’s other defencemen this season.
Dahlin did get into the lineup for Sweden’s second game, a narrow 1-0 win over Germany in which the Swedes were outshot. But although he was on the bench, Dahlin saw limited ice time and wasn’t used at all in the third period.
It’s worth noting that in last year’s 2017 World Junior Championship, Dahlin as an underage 16-year-old was also only used sparingly, even if he looked fantastic when he was given ice time. This isn’t a knock on his play, but perhaps the standard practice of a team favouring its veteran players — and Dahlin could still be eased into more ice time as the tournament goes on.
This is a player who Erik Karlsson says is much better than he was at the same age, which isn’t a shocking announcement considering the Senators defenceman was a 15th-overall pick and Dahlin will be the first name called at this year’s draft in June.
“I’m shocked. I have no idea what the coach is thinking,” Hall of Famer Peter Forsberg told Eurosport. “If he’s going to be here and learn, maybe he should be on the ice?”
It’s a question all NHL fans will be wondering as they keep watching to see if Dahlin’s ice time does go up. Sweden’s next game is against Finland on Sunday morning at 7:10 a.m. ET.