BUFFALO — Rasmus Dahlin will be a complete and dynamic NHL player for many years, Scotty Bowman told NHL.com on Saturday.
“His skating is so complete; he can go forwards, backwards and sideways so well and he has a good core,” Bowman said of the Buffalo Sabres rookie defenseman after watching him at the Prospects Challenge. “He’s got good size and strength and you can see he really likes to go.
“It’s a different game now from when I was coaching. There are some defensemen who just move the puck up, and there’s a sprinkling of guys who can lug it, and he’s one of those guys. It’s like (Ottawa Senators defenseman) Erik Karlsson and (Boston Bruins defenseman) Charlie McAvoy; those are special players.”
Video: Rasmus Dahlin takes the No. 1 spot on the list
Bowman, the winningest coach in NHL history, was asked if a comparison could be made between Dahlin, a 6-foot-2, 181-pound 18-year-old who was the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, and Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom.
“Lidstrom was a different kind of player because Nick wasn’t a puck-carrier, he moved the puck,” said Bowman, who coached Lidstrom for nine seasons with the Detroit Red Wings (1993-2002). “The similarities are they have no difficulty making passes when they’re in tight and it’s always on the stick. So when [Dahlin] gets the puck, there’s a good chance Buffalo is going to keep it. That’s the way we used to track Lidstrom; whenever he got the puck, very seldom did he make a play where the other team got it, so it was all about possession. [Dahlin] likes to go and join the rush.”
Bowman said the excitement and anticipation of Dahlin’s debut at HarborCenter against the New Jersey Devils on Friday reminded him of a scene more than 50 years ago at Boston Garden. Teenager Bobby Orr was playing for Bruins-sponsored Oshawa of the Ontario Hockey Association against the Montreal Jr. Canadiens, who were coached by Bowman.
“The Bruins hosted a junior-hockey series to showcase Bobby Orr to the fans,” Bowman said. “We went to Boston to play and they had 8,000 to 10,000 fans there. This is good for Buffalo because they missed out on winning the NHL Draft Lottery a few times.”
Dahlin scored two goals and had an assist in a 6-4 win against the Devils on Friday, and did not have a point in a 3-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday. The tournament ends Monday when the Sabres play the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“[Dahlin] just needs to grow with the League and the Sabres, but this guy can defend and jump in on offense,” Bowman said. “He’s going to be a dynamic player.”
Bowman has his name on the Stanley Cup 14 times with four teams (Red Wings, Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks). He won 1,244 NHL games, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder in 1991, and is the only man to coach three teams to the Stanley Cup. He is a senior adviser with the Blackhawks; his son Stan Bowman is their general manager.
Photos courtesy: Bill Wippert/Buffalo Sabres