DALLAS (AP) — The Buffalo Sabres have selected defenseman Rasmus Dahlin with the first overall pick in the NHL draft, giving them a dynamic player who should spark their rebuilding process.
Dahlin is the second Swedish player to be taken No. 1 and the first since Mats Sundin in 1989. The smooth-skating playmaker has been considered the consensus first pick for more than a year.
After putting on a Sabres jersey Friday night, the 18-year-old will jump to the NHL right away and should help the club’s league-worst offense that contributed to its last-place finish. He had six assists in seven games at the world junior championships in Buffalo and put up 20 points in 41 games in Sweden’s top pro league this season.
After co-owner Kim Pegula made some opening remarks, general manager announced Dahlin as the top pick. In the corner of American Airlines center, Sabres fans in attendance chanted, “Dahlin! Dahlin!”
Dahlin joins top center Jack Eichel as the faces of Buffalo’s rebuild after missing the playoffs each of the past seven seasons. Botterill said earlier in the day it’s “a great day for our organization,” a day that was coming since the Sabres won the draft lottery in April for the opportunity to make Dahlin the first pick.
It was such a foregone conclusion that Dahlin wore a Buffalo Bills hat on Friday, and when arena workers were testing the video board with his name in the first overall spot, it could have remained up there.
Botterill and his staff met with Dahlin at the scouting combine in Buffalo and came away as impressed with the young Swede’s self-assessment as his on-ice talent.
“I think Mr. Dahlin could improve pretty much 31 teams in the National Hockey League,” Botterill said. “You watch him on the ice and you’re very impressed with his hockey sense, his speed, his puck skills but a very humble man off the ice.”
Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SWhyno
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