DALLAS — After nearly two months of anticipation, the waiting is over.
Rasmus Dahlin is finally a member of the Buffalo Sabres.
The 18-year-old defenseman from Sweden was officially christened Friday night as the No. 1 overall pick of the NHL Draft by the Blue and Gold, marking the start of another new era as the Sabres try to climb out of the hinterlands of the NHL.
"On behalf of our great fans in Western New York, the Buffalo Sabres are proud to select Frolunda defenseman Rasmus Dahlin," said General Manager Jason Botterill, setting off roars in American Airlines Center.
The pick was made, Dahlin rose to his feet and hugged his mother (Asa), his father (Martin), sister (Ella) and brother (Felix).
He headed to the stage and was met there by Botterill, coach Phil Housley, owners Terry and Kim Pegula and director of scouting Ryan Jankowski and donned his blue jersey with the No. 18 on it (all draftees get handed No. 18, so don't think the Sabres are un-retiring Danny Gare's jersey).
It was the first time Kim Pegula had been on the podium to greet the club's first-round pick since she took over as team president in May following the forced resignation of Russ Brandon.
Dahlin smiled between a beaming Botterill, Housley and Terry Pegula for the photo that will go down in Sabres lore.
Kim Pegula was then scheduled to host Dahlin and his family — and all of the Sabres' picks this weekend — in the club's suites while Terry Pegula was to stay at the draft table.
Dahlin becomes the third No. 1 overall pick made by the Sabres since they came into the NHL, joining Gilbert Perreault in the club's inaugural draft in 1970 and Pierre Turgeon in 1987. The 6-foot-2 defenseman from Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League is expected to be an immediate contributor and the kind of defenseman who can instantly transform Housley's attack-based system into one that allows the Sabres to move the puck much faster up the ice.
— NHL (@NHL) June 22, 2018
The entire NHL has been focused on Dahlin as the No. 1 pick all season, but he became a daily obsession in Buffalo when the Sabres won the draft lottery on April 28. The hope is that a fortuitous bounce of ping-pong balls in a Toronto television studio could have impact on the franchise for a decade or more, immediately providing the booster shot of good luck the Sabres needed after a horribly disappointing 62-point season.
"I think Mr. Dahlin can improve pretty much 31 teams in the National Hockey League," Botterill said dryly with a smirk Friday morning during his pre-draft media briefing.
The Sabres were eager to start buildling their relationship with Dahlin, and Botterill said Friday the team was blown away by their interviews and dinner meeting with the teenager during the NHL Scouting Combine earlier this month in KeyBank Center and HarborCenter.
"A very humble man off the ice. I was very impressed with his self-assessment and what he felt he has to improve on," the GM noted. "Just the focus he has and the determination from that. I came away from the meetings very positive about him and that he will have a very impressive future in the National Hockey League."
The Sabres were not scheduled to make any more picks Friday night, but Botterill was known to be making efforts to acquire another first-round pick in a trade. Buffalo has the first pick of the draft Saturday morning, the No. 32 overall choice that opens the second round.