STOCKHOLM – Hockey Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom stopped by the Buffalo Sabres' dressing room Friday morning to meet the teen dubbed "the next Nicklas Lidstrom."
Lidstrom, the Detroit Red Wings legend widely regarded as the best defenseman ever to come out of Sweden, chatted in Swedish with Sabres prodigy Rasmus Dahlin for a few minutes after the team's morning skate prior to its game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Lidstrom is working this weekend for Swedish television network Viasat and was introduced to Dahlin by broadcast partner Jonatan Lindquist, who has been around the Sabres many times prior to the 2018 draft and since Dahlin joined the club.
Dahlin smiled broadly as he shook hands with Lidstrom for the first time.
"I was shaking. I felt like a child," Dahlin said after the meeting. "Yeah. That was cool. He's the best of all time. That's the guy."
"First time I've met. I saw him play in Frolunda a couple years ago and he's a mature player for his age," said Lidstrom, now 49. "He was that way two years ago when I saw him play.
"As a 17-year-old, he looked poised and mature. He looked hungry, willing to get up in the play, played with lots of enthusiasm. That's what you see in today's game as well. And at 19 years old, he's still a young player."
Lidstrom entered the NHL without any of the hype of Dahlin, getting selected in the third round at No. 53 overall by the Red Wings in the 1989 draft. He came to North America in 1991 and played 20 seasons for the Red Wings, retiring in 2012 as a four-time Stanley Cup champion, a seven-time Norris Trophy winner and the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the MVP of the 2002 playoffs.
Lidstrom is fifth all-time among NHL defensemen in games played (1,564) and sixth in points (1,142). He is the only non-North American in the top 15 in scoring among defensemen.
"I was 21 when I came in. There wasn't the hype," Lidstrom said. "I was a third-rounder. I wasn't ... looked upon as a superstar or a franchise player when I came in. I came in with (Vladimir) Konstantinov, two young defensemen looking at the rebuilding of the Wings.
"It's different times now. Everything with social media and the coverage. People know who you are. It wasn't like that at all when I came in during the early '90s. It's a real different world right now."
Dahlin has endured the Lidstrom comparisons for the last three years. While they're unfair at this point in Dahlin's career, Lidstrom said he's enjoyed hearing them.
"I take a lot of pride in being mentioned," Lidstrom said. "People are looking at me as one of the strong good defensemen coming out of Sweden, so I feel proud about being mentioned like that, too."
Lidstrom said he also enjoyed the mountains of hype around Dahlin heading into last year's draft.
"It was fun. It shows a great credit for Team Sweden to still be producing a lot of hockey players, for it being a small country," Lidstrom said. "We're still able to produce a lot of good players, especially young defensemen as of late. Some real good, strong young defensemen and now we have a No. 1, a first pick overall, which is real impressive."
Dahlin, who procured around 30 tickets for family and friends, said he was trying to approach the games as he normally would. But he knows many former Swedish stars, such as Lidstrom and longtime NHL center Peter Forsberg, were expected to be in the building or watching on television.
"That's what I try to do, make it like another game," Dahlin said. "But Lidstrom, maybe Forsberg and those guys watching. I know it's a lot of pretty cool names. I'm just trying to focus on the game. Otherwise, I can't play."
Lidstrom said Sabres fans need to understand that the 19-year-old is still learning to play a 200-foot game even as he faces top opponents.
"But from what I've seen, he's been adapting so quickly to playing at the next level," Lidstrom said. "He showed that when he came three years ago to Frolunda to play in the highest league in Sweden. I think he showed last year stepping into the NHL with the big hype and I think he responded real well.
"That's one impressive thing with Rasmus: He's been able to adapt so quickly to being in new environments."
The Sabres offered an injury update Friday and there was no news at the NHL level, where Zach Bogosian remains out indefinitely after hip surgery and Marco Scandella is listed as week to week with a lower-body injury. Coach Ralph Krueger said here earlier this week, however, that the team expects Scandella back shortly after it returns to North America.
The injury bug is striking hard, however, in Rochester. Winger C.J. Smith is now listed as out four to six weeks and defenseman Zach Redmond is week to week, both with lower-body injuries. Remi Elie (lower body) and Dalton Smith (upper body) are day to day while Taylor Leier (shoulder) is listed as indefinite.
Smith has three goals and three assists in 12 games for Rochester while Redmond, the reigning Eddie Shore winner as the AHL's top defenseman, has one goal and six assists in 11 games. Both were injured in a 6-0 win Nov. 2 at Utica. They started their time out of the lineup by missing Friday's game against Binghamton.
In a media gathering prior to the game, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the Global Series games for the 2020-21 season and said the league likely would return to Sweden in 2021-22.
As for next season, Columbus and Colorado will meet in a two-game series in Helsinki, likely in November. Boston and Nashville will open the season in Prague, with the Bruins finishing training camp in Germany with a game against Adler Mannheim and the Preds going to Switzerland to face SC Bern, the former team of captain Roman Josi.
Stockholm is playing host to its 11th and 12th regular-season NHL games this weekend, the most among all overseas locales. All Stockholm games have been played at Ericsson Globe. Following Stockholm are Helsinki (seven games), Prague (five) and Tokyo (four).
Gothenburg is the only other Swedish city to stage an NHL game, when New Jersey beat Edmonton, 5-2, in last year's season opener. Current Sabres center Marcus Johansson played for the Devils in that game.
With two of the four matchups between Buffalo and Tampa Bay coming in Sweden, the teams will only play once in each other's home rink this season. The Sabres meet the Lightning in Amalie Arena on Nov. 25 while the Bolts come to Buffalo for a New Year's Eve game that will mark the halfway point of the Sabres' season.