Let’s get this one out of the way first: Yes, the photo is real. Nope, no Photoshop. And it’s not offensive. So why did he take it down?
For the exactly the same reason as he posted it in the first place: Because he wanted to.
That instinct to post an artsy pic of yourself on a WaveRunner in your Sabres jersey ready to zoom off to Buffalo, then second guess yourself and delete it, is about the only reminder you’re going to get – so far, at least – that Sabres first-round draft choice Rasmus Dahlin is a teenager. And a really nice, polite, slightly-shy-in-an-endearing-way teen at that.
By every other indication, Dahlin comes across far older than his 18 years. That’s especially true on the ice, and it befits his status as the NHL’s first overall pick.
Dahlin, who is expected to immediately boost the Sabres’ defensive corps, moved to Buffalo from his home country of Sweden at the beginning of August. He has been skating with several of his new teammates for the past few weeks.
“Every time he’s on the ice he shows the skill set he has,” said veteran center Zemgus Girgensons, who has spent ample time on and off ice with Dahlin this summer. “It’s definitely what you’d expect from a first overall pick. It’s pretty impressive what we can do out there. The division, the stickhandling, it’s all there. Off the ice, he’s a mature guy. You’d never think he’s 18 years old. He carries himself like a professional.”
Don’t read deeply into this yet – training camp hasn’t even started – but at a point on the calendar when many people his age are moving into college dorms, Dahlin’s move into the NHL is smooth so far.
In an interview after his Friday skate at the team’s HarborCenter facility, Dahlin told The News he’s comfortable on NHL ice. Smartly, he was also cautious not to raise expectations.
“They’re so skilled, but so far we’re not at full tempo,” Dahlin said. “We’re just having fun out there and laughing. They’re skilled, but there’s one more level (to play).”
After the Sabres selected him in late June at the NHL draft in Dallas, Dahlin and his father, mother, brother and sister flew directly to Buffalo, where he participated in the team’s prospect camp. The Dahlin family then flew home to Sweden, where Rasmus spent the month of July.
“I worked out – I need to get stronger,” said Dahlin, who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds and said he wants a harder and quicker shot. “I spent a lot of time in the gym.”
His four weeks at home were presumably his last chance to hang with friends and family who likely won’t see him back in Europe until next summer. Not that he said farewell. “Uh, I’m pretty bad at saying goodbye,” Dahlin said. “But I have a bunch of friends that are close to me. It was hard but you have to move on.”
Dahlin moved on to Buffalo with help. His mother, Asa, accompanied her son, helping him get his new place set up and stocked.
“She’s here, helping with all the furniture and the food,” Dahlin said. “It’s a great help.”
Dahlin has spent plenty of time away from the rink this summer with teammates, including Girgensons and Casey Mittelstadt. He took in a Bills game and the Beyonce/Jay-Z concert at New Era Field. He’s already recognizable, getting stopped for photos and autographs wherever he goes. Though that’s not new for Dahlin – as a hockey prodigy, he’s been a national celebrity in Sweden for a few years – it does feel more intense.
“It’s a little bit different,” he said. “Everyone told me it’s a hockey town, and I can feel it. It’s great. Great fans.”
The spotlight during Dahlin’s rookie year will be bright. That dynamic – the one that separates him from nearly every other 18-year-old – may also be why Dahlin decided to take down a social media post that grabbed some attention. On Aug. 1, he posted a photo of himself on a Yamaha WaveRunner, in the water, fully dressed, hockey stick in hand, Sabres equipment bag strapped behind his seat. (Yes, this was as benign as an image can be.) Dahlin posted it, the Sabres shared it — and then it was gone.
But not before some media outlets had some fun:
A headline on Barstool Sports read, “If We're Being Totally Honest, This Seems Like A Highly Impractical Way For Rasmus Dahlin To Travel.”
TSN’s BarDown site posted this: “The Sabres shared an awkward photo of Rasmus Dahlin heading to Buffalo on a jet ski.”
Asked about the image on Friday, Dahlin smiled. “There was a guy who had a great idea,” he explained. “In the beginning it felt like it was a good idea, but when I posted it, it felt wrong. I felt it was too much, so I took it away. But there were some guys that picked it up.”
Why was it too much?
“Just my personality,” Dahlin said. “I’m kind of, like, I don’t know – it didn’t feel right. But now when I think back, it was just a fun thing.”
Think Dahlin’s personality is going to be one that strictly focuses on hockey? You are likely right.