Swe­den’s Dahlin, Pet­ters­son meet for first time in NHL

For­mer team­mates aren’t close, but have enor­mous re­spect for each other

The Buffalo News - - SPORTS - By Lance Lysowski NEWS SPORTS RE­PORTER

The story of the Canucks’ first sea­son with­out the Sedin twins is far dif­fer­ent than any­one in the NHL an­tic­i­pated. Rather than re­build­ing, the Canucks ar­rived in Buf­falo late Thurs­day night with the sec­ond-most points in the West­ern Con­fer­ence, led by the league’s top rookie.

Elias Pet­ters­son, a 19-year-old cen­ter, was drafted fifth over­all in 2017 and missed six games last month be­cause of a con­cus­sion, yet he’s al­ready feared by op­po­nents. So much so that it’s a story when Pet­ters­son doesn’t score.

Though he had an as­sist in a 8-5 vic­tory over the Bru­ins on Thurs­day night, fail­ing to score pre­vented him from be­com­ing only the fourth player since 1920-21 to score 11 or more goals through his first 11 ca­reer games.

He was only the fifth player to score 10 goals in his first 10, and his im­me­di­ate im­pact has sur­prised many across the league.

Not Ras­mus Dahlin. Cho­sen with the No. 1 by the Sabres in June, the 18-year-old de­fense­man was Pet­ters­son’s team­mate for Swe­den at the World Ju­nior Cham­pi­onships the past two sea­sons, in­clud­ing last year’s tour­na­ment in Buf­falo. Now, the two will face each other at KeyBank Cen­ter on Sat­ur­day when the Sabres host the Canucks at 1 p.m. in a matchup that will be broad­cast live in their home coun­try.

“I know he’s skilled,” Dahlin said with a grin. “It’s go­ing to be fun to see him play. Of course he’s had a great start. I’m not sur­prised. It’s go­ing to be fun.”

Not sur­prised? That com­ment raised a few eye­brows af­ter the Sabres’ prac­tice Fri­day af­ter­noon, yet few in the league knew Pet­ters­son’s game bet­ter than Dahlin. The two faced each other in the Swedish Hockey League last sea­son,

Sabres

when Pet­ters­son led all scor­ers with 56 points in 42 games and guided Vaxjo to the cham­pi­onship with 19 points in 13 play­off games.

The light­ning-quick re­lease on his left-handed shot wowed NHL scouts, and his play at his coun­try’s high­est level earned him the rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing a com­plete player. But his stock be­gan to rise months ear­lier when he and Dahlin helped Swe­den reach the fi­nals at the World Ju­nior Cham­pi­onships.

Dahlin was named an All-Star for the tour­na­ment and given the ti­tle of best de­fense­man, and Pet­ters­son left a last­ing im­pres­sion on his op­po­nents. Sabres cen­ter Casey Mit­tel­stadt rep­re­sented Team USA at the tour­na­ment and still mar­vels at Pet­ters­son’s go-ahead goal against him in the semi­fi­nals.

“I think the thing that re­ally stood out to me was how he shot the puck against us,” Mit­tel­stadt re­called. “Ob­vi­ously he moves well. He’s silky with the puck, but I think his shot is pretty im­pres­sive. Ob­vi­ously it’s great to see a young guy do­ing that in the league. I think we saw a lit­tle bit of it last year at World Ju­niors, and now you guys get to see it full time in North Amer­ica. It’s good to see.”

The Sabres don’t want to see that shot in their first meet­ing with the Canucks. De­spite the de­par­tures of Daniel and Hen­rik Sedin, Van­cou­ver is atop the Pa­cific Divi­sion and sec­ond in the West­ern Con­fer­ence with 21 points in 17 games.

Pet­ters­son is the talk of the league, as his as­sist Thurs­day night gave him eight more points than any rookie. Dahlin, mean­while, has a plus-4 rat­ing with one goal and four as­sists in 16 games.

This will be their first meet­ing in the NHL and though they’re not close, there’s a mu­tual re­spect.

“It’s more fun to have him on the same team,” Pet­ters­son said of Dahlin fol­low­ing the Canucks’ prac­tice at KeyBank Cen­ter on Fri­day. “He’s good de­fen­sively and some­times he plays like a for­ward. … He brings a lot to his team, and of course it’s harder to play against him than to have him on the same team.”

Dahlin isn’t pro­duc­ing at a his­toric pace, but Pet­ters­son Buf falo Sabres

Pho­tos by Harry Scull Jr./Buf­falo News

West Seneca East de­fen­sive back Zach Arnone in­ter­cepts an Iron­d­e­quoit pass Fri­day night at Clarence High School.

Cleve­land Hill run­ning back D’Mario Grant gains yardage against War­saw-Letch­worth on Fri­day night.

Getty Images

Sabres de­fense­man Ras­mus Dahlin, left, and Canucks cen­ter Elias Pet­ters­son played for Swe­den in the World Ju­nior Cham­pi­onships the past two sea­sons, in­clud­ing last year in Buf­falo.

James P. McCoy/Buf­falo News

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