Dahlin 'pissed off' about not playing again this season

May 28, 2020 - 7:52 am

It was another year of considerable growth for Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin.

The young Swedish defenseman continued to take the National Hockey League by storm in his second season in the league after being the first overall selection of the Sabres in the 2018 NHL Draft. As a 19-year-old, Dahlin continued to show his offensive prowess from the blue line with 40 points (4+36) in 59 games before this past season was shutdown prematurely due to the coronavirus pandemic. He was on pace to put up 49 points (5+44) in 72 games played, which would have been a 56-point pace if he played a full 82-game schedule.

Overall in his first two seasons in Buffalo, Dahlin has put up 84 points (13+71) in his first 141 NHL games. That point total now has Dahlin siting in second place for the most points by a teenage defenseman in NHL history, trailing former Sabres defenseman Phil Housley, who scored 143 points.

While Dahlin's rookie season in the NHL was a learning experience for him, he felt a difference of his expectations heading into his sophomore season.

"It was a huge difference, actually," Dahlin said during his end-of-season press conference on Wednesday with the Buffalo and Swedish media. "I had more pressure on myself, and I had more pressure from outside too. It was a lot different. I had to be more mature, had to play better every day. I had to be a player that the coaches can trust every game, so it was a good challenge, but it was a lot of fun."

Unfortunately for Dahlin and the Sabres, their 2019-20 season came to an end on Tuesday when the league announced its 24-team Return To Play format that left out the Sabres. Buffalo finished the season in 25th place with a 30-31-8 record and 68 points in 69 games played. That left the Sabres just two points behind the Montreal Canadiens for the 12th and final spot in the Eastern Conference play-in round.

Now that the season is over and done with for Buffalo, Dahlin has had a chance to look back on the year that was. However, his drive to play and compete has him upset that he will not be back on the ice playing in game action this season.

"I've been reflecting pretty much since I came home here in Sweden, and especially now that we couldn't make the 24 best [teams] in the league," Dahlin said. "It's tough to be here in Sweden when all my Swedish buddies are going back and playing and I'm staying here at home, back in Sweden and not playing. It pisses me off a little bit actually to not play now."

Despite not being able to step back on to the ice with the Sabres going forward this season, Dahlin is already using this time for self motivation to be better heading into the 2020-21 season.

"It's going to be a long summer," Dahlin said. "I take this as a fuel to be a lot better next year. It's going to be a good summer. I have a lot of time to be a better hockey player, for sure."

While he is back home, Dahlin says he has been able to skate and work out nearly every day to get in the right shape for the upcoming year. He has already been focusing on what the coaches have been discussing with his play, and how he can improve on that when he returns to the Sabres for next training camp.

"I'm putting on more muscles, and becoming heavier to take care of my own zone better and being stronger in the corner. I'm putting a lot of work in the gym. I'm working on my shot almost every day, that's my main thing right now is my shot.

"I've been shooting like I did when I was 10-years-old, so I'm switching up a couple of things and hopefully it will work out. I feel that I shoot harder now, and it's a lot of small things. I can't tell all my secrets."

Dahlin made it clear that he was pretty upset that he was not going to be back on the ice any time soon for the Sabres. However, a theme that was struck by others who spoke on Wednesday was the comradery in the room and being able to hang out with your teammates on a daily basis. While guys have been able to stay in contact during the quarantine period and talk things out as a group, Dahlin says there's no other feeling like being in the presence of your teammates in the locker room.

"You hang out with those guys every day, and now you're not hanging out with them. I've [been in] contact with a lot of guys on the team, especially now with what it is. It's not fun to not be able to hang out them when it's the coronavirus and all that stuff. I can't hang out with them because we can't travel here in Sweden too. It's not fun, for sure."

What this time off is going to do for many of these players for the Sabres is not only get them healthy, but also itching to return to the ice and improve upon the season that was. Many of the players in the Buffalo locker room know that last season was a disappointment one as the team will officially miss out on the playoffs for a ninth consecutive season.

Dahlin knows that all of his teammates will be hard at work this offseason preparing for the 2020-21 season, and wanting to win more games and return to the playoffs for the loyal crowd in Buffalo. He also knows that one player in particular, captain Jack Eichel, will, perhaps, be the hardest working of all the players as his drive is unmatched by many in the Sabres locker room.

"I know all the guys in the locker room are working really hard, especially Jack," Dahlin said. "He's one of the hardest workers I've ever played with. We all take after him, and we really want to win in Buffalo and be a winning team."

As he looks ahead to the 2020-21 season, Dahlin is hoping to take his game to that next level and begin to earn himself the talk from around the league as being one of the best players in the entire NHL.

"It's been a lot of fun these past two years," Dahlin said. "I'm a competitive guy, so my goal is to make the team No. 1 in the NHL, and for myself No. 1 in the NHL too. I always want to strive to be the best, so it's been what I have expected. It's a long process. Me and the coaches have been talking a lot about how to get better every day. I've been working on my defensive side a lot, I feel a lot more comfortable. I want to be a two-way defenseman. It's been a lot of work, but now I feel comfortable. I can make my next step, and hopefully I can show that next year."

You can listen to Dahlin's entire press conference below:

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