With 11 games left in the 2017-18 season for the Vancouver Canucks, who are third-to-last in the NHL standings, all eyes are now on the future. Prospects are a very hot topic in Canucks media at the moment, and one name that is making some waves is Jonathan Dahlen, who is lighting it up in the Allsvenskan Swedish league.
Dahlen is a great friend and former linemate of fellow Canucks prospect Elias Pettersson, who is having a stellar season of his own in the SHL. The thing is, though, most people figured Dahlen’s success was largely due to playing alongside Pettersson — however, this season, he proved the doubters wrong.
Dahlen on his development this year, " I feel faster, I am more mature. I got big minutes this season and my development was good." #Canucks
— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) March 14, 2018
Dahlen Flying Solo
Without his partner in crime, Dahlen has matched his point totals from last season (44) in one less game (44) for Timra IK, leading the team in goals (23) and points, by a fair margin. To put his statistics in perspective, he’s first in the league for goals per game (0.52) and even-strength points per game (0.64). He’s as offensively gifted as they come, but he’s also intelligent and plays simple hockey — his stats are those of a player who puts the puck on net as often as possible. In fact, he led the league in shots per game (3.66) and shot attempts (5.11).
His stellar play this season had him landing opportunities to join the SHL, but in a defiant move that’s indicative of his true character, he rejected the mid-January offer.
“Only an idiot without heart would have left Timra at this moment,” said Dahlen, “and I would not describe myself as an idiot without a heart. My heart is in the right place and I will continue to play for Timra.”
Dahlen came into the playoffs for Timra on fire — in a best-of-five series against the Leksand IF, Dahlen found twine four times and assisted on another three in a three-game sweep. By winning that series, Timra has been given a promotion to the SHL, so it all came full circle — Timra will now be taking on the last place Karlskrona HK of the SHL. The series starts March 27 and could go until April 6 if it runs the full seven-game stretch. Following that, Dahlen can fly over to North America and help the Utica Comets (AHL) with their playoff run.
His skill, paired with his character, is a perfect fit for the Canucks’ philosophy off the ice and also their team trajectory on it.
Dahlen 2018-19 Expectations
Managing expectations for this young player’s future is very important, for fans and also Canucks’ management. Transitioning from the big European ice to the smaller, tighter and tougher North American ice can prove to be quite a wake-up call for some players. With that being said, Dahlen’s intelligence level alleviates that worry a little bit — intelligent players can adapt and overcome most obstacles in hockey and manipulate the play enough to highlight their strong-points — think Brock Boeser, who’s not the strongest skater but he knows how to get open to snipe.
‘He’s not going to catch you with a lot of flash, but boy does he know how to get around the net, get scoring opportunities, and finish those opportunities. You have to be able to think quick and recognize opportunities, and that’s exactly what Jonathan does.’ – Craig Button
Craig Button went on to compare Dahlen to Michael Cammalleri of the Los Angeles Kings and also to former Canuck, Radin Vrbata — two players who know how to get open and then make you pay for giving them some open ice. Beyond that, quick decision making is also a shared quality among the trio and a facet of high praise within Dahlen’s arsenal.
A knock on Dahlen’s game has been his skating because it’s not overly quick and can be awkward at times. However, as mentioned, Boeser still finds success and a lot of it. Also, Daniel and Henrik Sedin aren’t too fast, but as Craig Button says, they play fast and they think fast, which is what you need to do in order to succeed.
Dahlen is indisputably a future NHL player, but the questions are when and to what capacity. In 2018-19, he’ll get some looks on the Canucks, likely a third-line go, but he’ll probably play most of the season with the Comets unless his production is out-of-this-world impressive.
Where do you think Dahlen fits in with the Canucks for the 2018-19 season? Post your thoughts in the comments below!
Matt is a longtime fan, player and student of the game of hockey. Broadcast and Online Journalism student at the British Columbia Institute of Technology.