It’s hard to say who was looking forward to the first day of the Buffalo Sabres 2018 development camp. No.1 overall pick Rasmus Dahlin or the fans who packed the HarborCenter to see the Swedish phenom and other prospects.
Whatever the case there was a sense throughout the building that a new era of Sabres hockey was finally being ushered in.
“Awesome. It was fun training with all of the crowd out there,” Dahlin said.
“It was pretty special.”
Dahlin was in the first group which featured other notable prospects like forward Viktor Olofsson, defenseman Brendan Guhle and goalie Jonas Johansson.
Group two headliners were Sabres 2017 first round pick forward Casey Mittelstadt, Rasmus Asplund, defensemen Lawrence Pilut and this year’s second round selection Mattias Samuelsson.
Notable names in the rink, but not on their ice were Alexander Nylander, Cliff Pu, Casey Fitzgerald and Devante Stephens.
“It’s June, not everyone is 100 percent,”
Sabres assistant GM Steve Greeley said.
“It’s certainly nothing, with any of these guys, that we’re terribly concerned with. At this time of year, you want them healthy for September. You want them healthy for training camp. So everything at this point is just precautionary. All these guys are here and working out. Doing everything off the ice, participating. We’re just being cautious off the ice.”
Without question Dahlin was the main attraction and he didn’t disappoint as he displayed the skating, shooting and playmaking skills that scouts have been raving about.
“He seems calm and poised,” said Brendan Guhle, who is Dahlin’s roomie.
“And he looks like he’s having fun out there. He’s real humble and real relaxed. We were watching America’s Got Talent (Tuesday) night and they have that in Sweden so it was perfect.”
“He’s pretty incredible,” Rochester Amerks coach Chris Taylor said.
“There’s a reason why he’s the first pick overall.”
Dahlin was formally introduced to the media on Monday. Since then the whirlwind journey continued as he toured WNY meeting fans and getting more familiar with his new home. Dahlin had a big name riding shotgun as Sabre legend Gilbert Perreault, the team’s first overall pick in the 1970 draft, helped show Dahlin around town.
“Yeah it was great. He was a funny guy and of course a legend,” Dahlin said. “So yeah it was awesome.”
Already knowing that WNYers were passionate about hockey, Wednesday’s turn out gave Dahlin a first-hand look at just how deeply fans are invested in the team.
While Dahlin knows expectations are high, for him, there was peace of mind just being back on the ice.
“Today, finally I get on the ice with all of the guys. I get to the real hockey,” he said. “To get back to the hockey thoughts and back on the ice.”
Former Sabre Brian Gionta was on the ice serving as an instructor guiding prospects through some of the drills.
GM Jason Botterill also spoke to the media about a trade he pulled out with Pittsburgh, his former team, that landed the Sabres LW Conor Sheary and defenseman Matt Huwnick.
Sheary scored 93 points in 184 games and was on two Stanley Cup championship teams in the Steel City.
“It was a situation where we’re looking to improve upon our even strength scoring,” Botterill said. “We knew we had to get a little bit of scoring from our wingers. What I’ve always liked about Conor’s game is he’s played in playoff situations and had success winning two Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh.”
Botterill said he thinks Sheary creates a lot of chances in even strength situations and that both he and Hunwick bring a winning pedigree that will only benefit the atmosphere in the locker room.