World Juniors Notebook: Dahlin looking every bit like this summer's No. 1 NHL pick - The Buffalo News

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World Juniors Notebook: Dahlin looking every bit like this summer's No. 1 NHL pick

National Hockey League scouts have been packed into HarborCenter for much of the last week. That's where Sweden has played the majority of its games and that's where Rasmus Dahlin has been working his blueline magic.

The 17-year-old is expected to be the overall No. 1 pick at the NHL Entry Draft in June. Most have called him a lock for the spot, which would make him the first Swede to go No. 1 since Mats Sundin in 1989.

There have been plenty of eyes on him.

But Dahlin, well, he just goes out and plays and doesn't worry about any extra pressure.

"Actually not so much," Dahlin said Wednesday afternoon in KeyBank Center. "I play hockey because I love it. Why don't have fun if you can?"

His English is good, but not great, and his demeanor is friendly with a touch of shyness, so his meetings with the North American media are usually brief and simple. Although he does have a good handle on the hockey cliches. Asked what the keys were to Thursday's semifinal matchup against the United States, and Dahlin's answer was typical:

"Playing 60 minutes I think and just play strong and then the chances will come," Dahlin  said.

The chance will come in June, as well. And the hockey officials in Sweden know that. So they've kept Dahlin a bit off the radar. He didn't do any pre-tournament media. His interviews in Buffalo have been primarily the group-based ones in the mixed zone, a set-up by design from Team Sweden to help Dahlin deal with the spotlight.

It was something that Sweden learned in 2009 when defenseman Victor Hedman was in the mix for the overall No. 1 draft pick. (Headman went No. 2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning after the New York Islanders selected John Tavares first overall.)

"I think that was the biggest issue and it hasn't been as bad as we thought," Sweden's coach Tomas Monten said of the spotlight on Dahlin. "We had some Victor Hedman memories from when he was in the World Juniors and we don't want to have the same situation so we try to handle it a little different. Things worked out really good. Of course he needs to do what he needs to do. Every player has to handle the media, to be out there after games and things like that but I think he's done what he needs to do. It just feels he's comfortable with himself. He knows he's here to play and what happens in June will happen in June."

On the ice, Dahlin has been the workhorse for Sweden, logging the most minutes on the team. His tournament high was 28:07 in the final preliminary round game against Russia, a 4-3 overtime win for Sweden. He played 24:08 in the quarterfinal win over Slovakia and took a maintenance day on Wednesday.

He has six assists through five games with 21 shots on goal and a plus-seven rating. He had one goal and one assist last year at the World Juniors where he played a smaller role.

"I'm older, so I've got more experience," Dahlin said of the difference from last year's tournament. "I'm stronger out there and I feel more comfortable."

***

Brady Tkachuk may be from St. Louis and attending school in Boston, but the Team USA forward has found a little bit of a soft spot for the Buffalo Bills.

Tkachuk posted a photo on Instagram, a celebratory shot after he scored in the shootout at the outdoor game at New Era Field in the 4-3 win over Canada with the Billsy phrase "always trust the process" and the hashtag #BillsMafia.

So when asked about the Bills making the playoffs, Tkachuk had some thoughts.

"It was awesome. It was a couple days later when they found out (they made the playoffs). It was pretty cool that we were in their locker room," Tkachuk said. "I think it's the first time since '91, I think?"

Well, 1999. It wasn't that bad, Brady.

"For some reason I saw '91 but that's on me," Tkachuk said with a smile. "I saw it on social media and I saw the people waiting outside the airport and that's just awesome. It speaks volumes about the City of Buffalo and how much they love their teams. It was awesome to be in that NFL stadium."

 

Always trust the process #billsmafia

A post shared by Brady Tkachuk (@bradytkachuk) on

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The second semifinal features Canada against the Czech Republic. And if the game continues in the same vein as the early games have for Canada, the chorus of "Hey Baby" will again being ringing through the halls of KeyBank Center.

Canada picked the remix by DJ Ötzi as its goal song. Which means that song has played a lot over the last few days. Canada is the highest scoring team in the tournament with 29 goals.

But the players weren't sold on the goal song after the first games. It was roundly criticized, and, for the record, continues to be in certain pockets of the media work room. The outdoor game changed the players' minds. Then came the 8-0 win over Denmark with Canadian fans serenading the arena with the refrain as they left KeyBank Center.

"Hey Baby" was here to stay.

"It's pretty cool," Canadian forward Brett Howden said. "At first all of us were kinda questioning it but at the outdoor game it sounded pretty sweet with the crowd and then I think everyone's kinda catching on to it."

It's catching on, but no one is divulging who in the room was responsible for its selection.

"I love it. It's something different. No one else has it," Boris Katchouk said. "I mean I can't tell you who did it unless they told you, but it's definitely a cool one."

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