Ellis: Dahlin has a 'level of poise to everything'

July 16, 2018 - 10:52 am

The Buffalo Sabres' offseason continues to roll along as the team gets set for the upcoming 2018-19 season to start on October 4 against the Boston Bruins at KeyBank Center.

The highlight of the offseason is arguably drafting defenseman Rasmus Dahlin with the first overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, and getting him under contract with his three-year entry-level deal.

Sabres fans were able to get their first glimpse of Dahlin at development camp, where he came ready to show the fans what he is going to bring to the table at the NHL level. The 18-year-old certainly didn't disappoint, showcasing his incredible skating and puck handling skills, as well as showing of his physicality with a big hit on fellow 2018 draft pick, Matej Pekar.

One person who has had an up-close look at Dahlin in Buffalo if former Sabres forward, Matt Ellis. Ellis was not only on the ice for development camp working as a coach during drills, but he was also with Dahlin on the ice shortly after he was drafted on June 22 in Dallas, Texas.

It is fair to say that Ellis was blown away by what he had seen from the first overall pick the first time he saw him in action.

"The first time I had Rasmus Dahlin on the ice prior to development camp, I'd seen the first time he received and passed the puck with the poise and his posture. Right then and there, I turned to one of my colleagues and said, 'Watch this.' Never a flutter of the puck, everything was done clean and poised. A certain moment like that, on a simple skill, it jumps out at you right away. It's usually those small parts that makes the big difference in the end. Right away, him handling the puck jumped out.

"The way he moves and the way he does things, there is a level of poise to everything. Poise and purpose, I like to call it, just watching his movement patterns. Obviously efficiency is a big word, but a lot fo those drills were based on feet-hand separation. They were based on multiple skills, having to think a step ahead, being able to process and know where you're next step is going to be before you make the one prior to that."

Ellis is currently a development coach with the Academy of Hockey at HarborCenter, and has been there for nearly two years after retiring from professional hockey in 2016.

Over the past two years, Ellis has had the chance to work closely with some of the Sabres' best prospects in the organization at the annual development camp. However, Ellis was able to get the chance to skate with Dahlin the day of his introductory press conference, which was two days before the start of development camp.

For Dahlin to skate on the same day as he got to Buffalo for the first time as a Sabre was a meaningful message to Ellis, and what the young defenseman will mean to the city and the team for years to come.

"The day of his press conference speaks volumes. You look at what Rasmus went through, probably the couple weeks prior to coming into Buffalo, I can only imagine in the world of an 18-year-old the amount of stress and things that went on. It would have been an easy day to take a free pass. It would have been easy to say, 'I've got my press conference in, let's go get on the bike, get a little sweat on.' But I got a call [asking] to push the ice back so that Rasmus can make it because he really wants to skate. Right there, that jumped out at me because that shows maturity already and a level of professionalism and hunger for a young player that he wants to get on the ice and he wants to get this thing started. They're not just words in the press conference about how excited he was to get in and get on the ice. He talked the talk, and then walked the walk."


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