Buffalo Sabres star Jack Eichel said what you don’t see in rookie defenseman Rasmus Dahlin is as important as what you do see.
No panic. No wasted energy. No indecision.
“What I’ve noticed is how effortless it is for him,” Eichel said. “How smooth he is, catching a pass and shooting the puck. He reminds me of (Nicklas) Lidstrom a little bit.”
Eichel knows that will raise eyebrows because Lidstrom is a one of the greatest of all-time.
“It’s a crazy comparison,” he said. “But (Dahlin) isn’t physical, and he gets his stick on a lot of pucks and reads the play well. To me, it’s about how he sees everything."
Dahlin, the No. 1 pick from this past draft, may the NHL’s most talked-about rookie defenseman since Denis Potvin was drafted No. 1 in 1973. Even though only one defenseman has been named rookie of the year in the past eight years, Dahlin is our preseason pick to win the Calder Trophy.
Here are others in the top 10:
2. Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson: After winning the Swedish League’s scoring championship (56 points in 44 games) and being named playoff MVP, Pettersson has been called Vancouver’s most exciting prospect since Pavel Bure.
This youngster has superstar ability, including a heavy shot. He might be the favorite to lead all rookies in points.
What kind of hands does he have? Online you can find a photo of him juggling while riding a unicycle.
3. Buffalo Sabres center Casey Mittelstadt: Buffalo’s fan base is excited about the possibility of an Eichel-Mittelstadt one-two center combination. Mittelstadt registered five points in his first six games with Buffalo last season and 50 points are possible this season.
“People know how good he is,” Eichel said. “But I think he’s going to be better than people think.”
4. Dallas Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen: In a span of just over five months, Heiskanen, 19. played for Finland at the world junior championships, the Olympics and the world championships.
He’s a well-rounded player who is as strong defensively as he is offensively. “He’s not going to wow you offensively, but he’s a good, smart offensive player,” Dallas general manager Jim Nill said. “He’s going to be a big part of our team moving forward.”
5. Carolina Hurricanes right wing Andrei Svechnikov: Scored 40 goals in 44 games for the Barrie Colts in the Ontario Hockey League, and it’s not unthinkable that he could net 25 this season in the NHL. He’s 6-2 and he goes to the net with purpose. But that’s not the only reason why the Hurricanes took him No. 1.
“He’s a game-changer,” Carolina general manager Don Waddell said. “But I was also impressed with how much he wants to win. He is very impressive."
6. Boston Bruins left wing Ryan Donato: Ted Donato played 796 games in the NHL as a role player, and his son Ryan likely will have an even greater impact.
With a wicked shot and quick release, Donato has the potential to develop into a consistent scorer. He scored 60 goals in three seasons at Harvard, and he contributed nine points in 12 games for Boston last spring. He could score 20 in the NHL this season.
7. Ottawa Senators left wing Brady Tkachuk: He’s Keith’s son and Matthew’s brother and you know what that means: he will play a physical, skilled game every time he is on the ice.
While he is far from polished, he has NHL instincts in his DNA.
8. Carolina Hurricanes center Martin Necas: If he proves himself early, he will end up being the No. 2 center. He’s a gifted playmaker with the speed bursts necessary to play in the NHL.
He posted three goals and five points for the Czech Republic against NHL players at the world championships last spring.
9. Montreal Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi: When the Habs drafted Kotkaniemi at No. 3 last June, they envisioned him blossoming into their No. 1 center. He’s 6-2 and showed a strong two-way game playing in the Finnish Elite League last season.
He is wired for the North American game. He thrives when games are physical, and he can make plays in traffic. Kotkaniemi can have an impact this season.
10. Detroit Red Wings left wing Filip Zadina: He will start the season in the American League, but it’s easy to foresee Zadina called up quickly. He has a sizzling shot with a fast release.
“From the first 20 minutes on the ice with him, you can tell he has it all put together,” Red Wings center Dylan Larkin said. “He just understands hockey. He understands timing. He looks like a professional.”
Honorable mention: Henrik Borgstrom (Florida Panthers): Could be among top rookie scorers with enough playing time; Filip Chytil (New York Rangers): Could get 40 points this season; Eeli Tolvanen (Nashville Predators): Could be called up from Milwaukee and score 15-20 goals; Michael Rasmussen (Red Wings): He’s a 6-6 winger with a scoring knack around the net; Barrett Hayton (Arizona Coyotes): Smart center with offensive ability.
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