Rasmus Dahlin is a survivalist.
Whether stickhandling through the neutral zone or strafing his way through Anarchy Acres, his mission is the same: to escape chaos and make his enemies pay the price for failing to contain him.
Dahlin is the presumptive first overall draft choice in the NHL Draft. He's a blue-line prodigy who was 16 when he turned pro in Sweden's top league. The Buffalo Sabres own the first pick and almost certainly will make him theirs in three weeks.
In Dahlin's interim is "Fortnite," the addictive video game where the objective is to outlast 99 other marauders on an island.
So before you spot him skating in the KeyBank Center this fall, you might find him navigating through Fatal Fields, Junk Junction or Greasy Grove.
Dahlin took a break Friday from the NHL Scouting Combine, which concludes Saturday at HarborCenter, to sit down with The Buffalo News for a one-on-one interview.
He fielded questions about his family, his motivations, life away from the rink and his preferred method to eliminate foes.
When and how did you figure out you were good enough for the NHL?
RD: It was the ending of this season in the playoffs of the SHL. I realized that, yeah, I feel I can play on a high level.
What doubts do you have?
RD: What is "doubts?" That's a hard word.
[An NHL representative rephrases the question.] Is there anything that makes you think you won't succeed? Any nervousness?
RD: I don't know what to expect, actually. I will see it all soon. The only thing I can say is I'm so excited and want the season to start. I don't know how it's going to feel, moving to another country. Everything is new except the hockey, but I'll be around hockey. I'm more excited than nervous, actually.
As a 16-year-old professional in Sweden and the youngest player in the 2018 Olympic Games, how did you and your parents make sure you got to experience being a regular kid?
RD: When I'm in Gothenburg, I'm always with my friends. They are the same age. We have kind of a young team in Frolunda. I'm playing video games at night and all that stuff also. It's pretty easy because you're with a team.
What video games are you into?
RD: What do you think.
Is everything "Fortnite"?
RD: Yeah [laughs].
What is it about Fortnite that's so addictive?
RD: Have you seen the movie "Hunger Games"?
RD: So it's kind of like that. You're all on a bus, 100 people. Everybody jumps out and you have to kill everybody to win. Last one standing.
What's your strategy?
RD: I'm a pusher. I want to push everybody. There are some guys that try hiding to win.
Hiding is the best strategy to get into the top 10, but that's no fun.
RD: Yeah, you want to kill.
Do you have a favorite move?
RD: Probably the pump shotgun. I love the head shot with the pump shotgun [laughs].
What do your parents do for work?
RD: My dad [Martin] is the under-17 assistant coach for the national team in Sweden. My mom [Asa] works for a company that sells ... trailers? Behind a car? That you can live in?
Sounds like what we call a camper here in the United States.
RD: Exactly! That's what she sells.
So what do they think about all this NHL attention?
RD: They're proud and excited, too. The whole family is excited. I don't know what they're thinking. It's just hockey, but something big's going on. They're probably thinking about a lot, but they're not worried. It's all good.
Since it's difficult for artists to explain where their creativity comes from, how would you describe what it means to be so creative?
RD: Everything starts with hard work. I've worked so hard to get the technique. It's easier to play hockey when you have technique.
I've seen interviews where you've been asked how you pulled off a spectacular play, and you'll say you "blacked out." What happens there?
RD: Every situation, I just want to get out of it. I don't think what I should do. It just happens.
That probably makes you a better "Fortnite" player.
If you had been born 20 years earlier, with the Swedish development program as it was -- 1-3-1 defensive systems, creativity wasn't welcome -- where would you be as a player heading into your draft?
RD: First of all, I think I would be a forward. I play hockey because I like to do all this kinds of things [wiggles wrists to imitate fancy stickhandling]. But I think I'd never be in this situation. I'm glad defensemen could play the way I was allowed to play.
And what type of player would you be today if you hadn't switched from center to defense at 13?
RD: My game wouldn't be the same. You take information from forward and learn. It's helped me a lot. When I was younger, I always did this kind of stuff [stickhandles in the air again]. You do it more when you're a forward. I learned that way. When I was a center I used to look what the defense was doing against me. Now, I look at what the forwards do and put it together. It's been great for me.
You've said you play for your big brother Felix, who had to stop playing because of arthritis. What are your emotions going through the NHL Draft process whereas he couldn't experience it?
RD: Yeah, of course, it's sad. I know how much he loves hockey, but he didn't ... Yeah ... I don't know what to say. ... He's proud and excited, too. It's a family thing I'm going through, too. Everybody's involved.
Seeing how a health issue cut Felix's career short, how much do you wonder if injuries could impact you in such a physical game?
RD: I don't think in those ways. I'm a positive guy. If you're working hard enough, you will play good. Hard work is the main thing.
What's your definition of "hard work"?
RD: Train more than all the other guys on your team, everyone in hockey. If you train more than anyone else, you will play better than anyone else.
When you have a bad workout or practice, how do you handle it?
RD: If I have a bad practice, I used to train more, train until I'm happy. I always want to end happy. If I'm not, then I do something to make sure I'm happy.
You always need to leave the ice or the gym in a good mental place about the work you just did.
How will you balance having patience in your pro development versus your desire to be an NHL star?
RD: I'm young, so I know I'm a long way until then. Just be patient. Somewhere it's just hockey, so if you work hard and have fun then it's going to be good. I don't know how I'll handle it. I don't have a good answer, actually. I don't know. I don't think about it in that way.
Aside from "Fortnite," what do you do when you're not working on your game?
RD: I'm a calm guy. I love to hang out with my friends. In the summers, I like to play golf. I love the summers. In the winter, it's just hockey and that's my focus.
Story topics: Rasmus Dahlin