We've spent weeks hearing what scouts and draftniks have to say about Rasmus Dahlin. Wednesday afternoon, after we saw Dahlin in the flesh on the ice for the first time, it was good fortune to be able to ask a longtime teammate.
Winger Victor Olofsson, the Sabres' seventh-round pick in 2014, has played alongside Dahlin for the Frolunda Indians of the Swedish Hockey League the last two years.
His memory of their first meeting, during a 2016 practice, remains vivid.
"He got the puck on the blue line and I was going out towards him," Olofsson recalled during a break between sessions in HarborCenter. "And he just put it between my legs and went in and scored. That was probably the first time I really noticed him.
“I thought it was a fluke at first. But then when he did it again and again, it’s not just a fluke.”
It was no fluke. It was pretty easy to see what all the fuss is about after watching Dahlin for an hour in a June practice. That shouldn't be any sort of barometer, but the kid just excelled.
His skating is downright beautiful, with fluid, powerful strides. His head is up all the time as he carries the puck. Passes have oomph. As they like to say in the game, his shot is "heavy." He had a couple of snipes that drew plenty of oohs and ahhs from the crowd that filled most of the 1,800 seats.
"I think it's pretty amazing to have this crowd here in late June," Olofsson said. "A lot of them are here to see Rasmus but it's more fun for the rest of us, too. It's awesome.
“He’s great. He’s a special guy. He can do things out there most forwards can’t do. Almost every game there's something he can do so it's pretty amazing."
When I asked Olofsson what part of Dahlin's game improved in his second pro season over his first, he gave an answer that has to rate as music to GM Jason Botterill's ears.
"I think his defensive part has been growing this last season," Olofsson said. "He became a really solid defenseman for us. He’s always been good with the puck, but now I think he’s been really good defensively, too.”
You might recall the words of Hall of Fame defenseman Denis Potvin to this corner earlier this month. Picked No. 1 overall in 1973, Potvin's Hall of Fame career as long been rated the best from the blueline in that spot of the draft. Many experts say Dahlin can get there, too.
The YouTube highlights are all with Dahlin carrying the puck. But he's a defenseman. Like Potvin said of Sabres coach Phil Housley, "I just sure hope his focus is to make sure the young man plays defense first. And that will take teaching, I don't care where he comes from."
Olofsson's assessment shows Dahlin knows his place on the ice. Olofsson, who turns 23 next month, is like everybody else in being impressed by Dahlin's maturity.
"You don’t see him get stressed out on the ice too often," Olofsson said. "I just feel the skill he has is so special. He’s above almost everyone else in skill.”
Olofsson knows he's going to spend a lot of time in this camp answering questions about Dahlin and said he had no problem with that. But there will be questions about his game, too, because he's one of the more intriguing players the Sabres have in camp.
Olofsson is coming off a 27-goal season with Frolunda, and Dahlin has said multiple times in recent weeks that the right wing has perhaps the best show in the Swedish League. Not many seventh-round picks bloom late like this but the Sabres signed Olofsson to his entry-level deal in April and he's going to get a good look in Rochester this year.
"The last couple years, I feel like I've been growing every year," Olofsson said. "And after the season I had, I was feeling confident and happy to be here.
"I know it's going to be tough but I wouldn't be here if I didn't think I could play in the NHL. I'm going in here trying to get a spot in the NHL and we'll see what happens."