The country of Sweden and defensemen both did well at the 2018 NHL Draft, representing in huge numbers among the overall draft selections.
The 2018 NHL Entry Draft has finally concluded, with the league’s teams having made all 217 selections in this year’s process.
Swedish defender Rasmus Dahlin of Frolunda went first overall to the Buffalo Sabres — a delightful if entirely unsurprising development for Sabres fans.
Dahlin is excited, as well — in fact, it’s very likely he slept in his new Sabres sweater:
But Dahlin isn’t the only Swede — or the only defender — to find a new home thanks to this year’s Draft.
It was a particularly strong year for both defensemen and Swedish prospects overall. The former was the most-drafted position group among all players this year, with teams selecting 70 defensemen out of the league’s 217 picks. If you’re curious, centers were next at 63, followed by right wings (30), goaltenders (29) and left wings (25).
And a lot of those players were Swedish. According to the league, the country tied its previous record for number of players drafted in a single year, with 28.
In addition to Dahlin, those players included defenseman Adam Boqvist, selected No. 8 overall by the Chicago Blackhawks; center Isac Lundestrom, selected at No. 23 by the Anaheim Ducks; defenseman Filip Johansson, selected 24th overall by the Minnesota Wild and, of course, the other defenseman named Rasmus — Sandin, who was taken No. 29 by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
While Dahlin was the only Swede to come from the Frolunda amateur team, Lulea sent both Lundestrom and Nils Lundkvist (No. 28, New York Rangers) to the NHL.
Sweden has become something of a breeding ground for impact NHL defensemen. With the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Victor Hedman earning this year’s Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman, four of the past eight winners have been Swedish.
That’s no accident. In 2002, Sweden overhauled its youth hockey federation in 2002 to help its players better develop their skills — and the NHL is reaping the benefits.
Mats Sundin was the last Swedish player to be drafted No. 1 overall in 1989 by the Quebec Nordiques. Dahlin spoke to media Friday night about what it means to be the first Swedish player to go first overall in nearly 30 years.
“Yeah, it’s pretty crazy,” Dahlin said. “He’s a legend in the hockey world. It’s kind of weird but amazing.”
Dahlin will join a healthy cohort of Swedish players already on Buffalo’s roster, which indicated will “probably” make his transition easier.
“I’m super excited to meet everyone on that team and to try to get a spot on that team. That’s my dream to play in the NHL.”