Jonathan Dahlen is only 23 years old, but you’d never know this by his long NHL journey thus far. With his rookie year going off without a hitch, the San Jose Sharks have a potential All-Star itching to lead the team. Seeing that he is in his first year, the winger needs to be considered as a favorite for the Calder Trophy. Funny how this has evolved, because some thought he’d never even make it to San Jose (or any other NHL city).
The Beginning Of Jonathan Dahlen’s NHL Journey
Dahlen was a phenomenal prospect coming out of Sweden. Taken in 2016 with the 46th pick (Ottawa Senators), he was a talented player with a wide array of shot techniques. The main concerns regarding him were his physicality, size and speed, and that he played in the Swedish Allsvenskan rather than the Swedish Hockey League (SHL).
Ottawa wasted no time in trading the skilled forward at the 2017 Trade Deadline for Alex Burrows. The Vancouver Canucks, who also drafted Elias Pettersson (Dahlen’s linemate on Timra IK), thought they would find instant chemistry between the two. The belief within the organization was that Dahlen was the key factor in Vancouver selecting Pettersson. Of course, things don’t always go as planned.
Dahlen signed a three-year entry deal with Vancouver in April of 2017. He returned to Allsvenskan, where he was named MVP. Once his time overseas began, Dahlen paced the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Utica Comets, even making a stop at Vancouver’s training camp. However, the Canucks traded Dahlen to San Jose in 2018. While he showed some promise with the San Jose Barracuda of the AHL, Dahlen returned to Timra IK on a loan from San Jose. The rest, as they say, is history. For the following two seasons, he led his Swedish team with 77 and 71 points (both seasons affected by COVID-19). Now, he’s a Calder favorite with a newly signed one-year contract with the Sharks.
The Calder Trophy Is Within Reach For Dahlen
Outside of the Detroit two-headed monster known as Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond, Dahlen has been the most productive rookie in the NHL. He’s stepped into one the the league’s most productive lines with Logan Couture and Timo Meier and has still managed to stand out with Meier dealing with COVID-19.
As with most Calder winners, the endgame is usually points scored. Whomever has the most points as a rookie usually has the best chance to win. That will hold true this year as long as Spencer Knight, Jeremy Swayman, or Alex Nedeljkovic (another Red Wings player) do not take over as their teams’ top goalie and go on a rampage through the league (which could happen). With that being said, points will still be a huge factor. Dahlen (as of Nov. 11) is tied for third in points scored (8), behind Raymond (14) and Seider (11). The big advantage in Dahlen’s court is he’s tied with Raymond for first in goals (6).
What Could Hinder Dahlen’s Run At The Calder?
One thing to look out for that could negatively affect Dahlen is that he is shooting at a high 23.1 percent. On the other hand, Raymond has settled in nicely with a more modest 14.6 percent. The obvious regression for Dahlen will come. He does have a saving grace playing with Couture and Meier, the latter looking like a Hart Trophy candidate before his COVID-19 designation. Still, Dahlen will need to overcome the inevitable rookie wall that’s coming to him. We will need to see less of the scoring and more of the playmaking. That could very well happen, as Dahlen is a well-rounded player.
If I were a betting man, I’d argue that Dahlen finishes in the top-five of rookie scorers. I do not think given the high shooting percentage that his goal pace can continue like it has. If the assist numbers don’t increase, Raymond or Seider will walk away with the Calder (possibly share the honor). Although, if those assist totals do increase with the inevitable shooting percentage drop, the puck once again falls in Dahlen’s favor. It’s really just a matter of whether or not he makes the adjustments needed.
San Jose And Dahlen Are A Perfect Combination
Whatever way you look at his chances, Dahlen is still a find for San Jose. Two teams shipped him off, only to have him land in the Sharks organization as a battle-tested and mature prospect that wanted the spotlight. He’s shown he’s more than worthy of the attention. Dahlen has made fools of Ottawa and Vancouver and their respective front office. It doesn’t matter if Dahlen takes home the Calder Trophy, he’s already won much more than a trophy.
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Growing up in South Florida, I’ve lived through the “Year of the Rat”. I’ve seen my fair share of Blue Jackets triumphs and failures living in Ohio. Now, I look to Northern California and the Sharks as my new home team.