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Photo Credit: NHL.com

Canucks Army 2017 Pre-Season Prospect Rankings #5: Jonathan Dahlen

After being unable to consummate a deal at the 2016 NHL trade deadline to unload pending unrestricted free agents like Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata, expectations were considerably lower at the 2017 deadline, especially considering that Jim Benning had come out and publicly revealed that he wouldn’t be trying to trade players with no-trade clauses.

Of course, that turned out of be a smokescreen of sorts, and when the deadline finally rolled around, Jim made two of his best moves as the GM of the Vancouver Canucks, turning a couple of 30+ veteran into bonafide prospects. One of those was Nikolay Goldobin, who was acquired from the Sharks in exchange of Jannik Hansen, and was covered this morning as the number six prospect on this list. The other was Jonathan Dahlen, a skilled Swedish winger plucked from the Ottawa Senators in return for Alex Burrows.

Qualifications

We’ve changed the qualifications up just a little bit this year. Being under the age of 25 is still mandatory (as of the coming September 15th), but instead of Calder Trophy rules, we’re just requiring players to have played less than 25 games in the NHL (essentially ignoring the Calder Trophy’s rule about playing more than six games in multiple seasons).

Graduates from this time last year include Brendan Gaunce, Troy Stecher, and Nikita Tryamkin, while Anton Rodin is simply too old now, and Jake Virtanen is not being considered solely as a result of his games played.

Scouting Report

First things first, the fact that Sens fans were unhappy about the trade is undoubtedly a good sign. With Ottawa-based Andrew DiRienzo of the Hockey Writers calling the trade and outright “mistake” by Senators GM Pierre Dorion, and Ross A. of Silver Seven Sens calling it “the worst trade of [Dorion’s] tenure“, the deliciousness of the tears of a swindled Canadian rival would be sustenance enough, but of course we get a prospect out of it that should be an important part of Vancouver’s core for years going forward.

Picked 42nd overall in 2016, Dahlen’s stock has only risen since then, and given his performance in the Allsvenskan last season, a re-draft would surely have him in the first round of that draft. Following a fantastic season in which he put up 44 points in 45 games in Sweden’s tier 2 professional league, the son of long time NHLer Ulf Dahlen was named the top junior aged player in the league.

I covered Dahlen quite heavily when he was acquired by the Canucks, so much like in the article I wrote about Evan McEneny last week, I’ll direct you to the Deep Dive if you’re so inclined, and just give you the highlights here.

Dahlen’s play has garnered him a lot of fans in the media, who have been impressed by his skillset and intelligence. Here’s a smattering of praise from analysts with a keen interest in prospects:

“What I really like about him is his hockey sense,” Shane Malloy told the TSN 1040 afternoon show after the trade. “He’s intelligent, understands where he needs to be, finds open ice. He’s opportunistic when it comes to goal scoring.”

That opportunism may be very helpful in overcoming one notable issue: the small stature. “The knock on Dahlen is he’s 170-ish pounds and he’s listed at 5’11” which means he’s probably 5’10”,” said TSN’s Ray Ferraro. “He’s not a big guy, but that’s less and less relevant today.”

In today’s fast paced NHL, speed and intelligence have diminished the requirement for size. And while he’s not a dynamic skater, he’s agile and quick on his edges, getting in and out of areas he needs to be in, rather than forcing himself there with brute strength. “He’s a darter,” Ferraro added.

“He’s not going to catch you with a lot of flash,” notes TSN’s Director of Scouting, Craig Button. “But boy does he know how to get around the net, get scoring opportunities, and finish those opportunities.”

Button also praised his intelligence. “He’s a smart player and I have no reason to believe he will not get his pace up to a standard that will allow him to be a top six player in the NHL.”

The one area in which Dahlen has been criticized is his speed on his skates. He’s an agile player (a darter, as Ferraro said), but he certainly isn’t a burner. However, his skating has improved dramatically since he was drafted, and it will probably continue to improve as he develops. While we wouldn’t want to heap too much pressure on Dahlen’s shoulders with an unfair comparison, we can look at the Sedins twins for an example of players that have used puck skills and intelligence to overcome deficits in speed.

Dahlen showed remarkable consistency in his production, considering that he was a teenager in a professional league. The first half of his season contained nearly as many multi-point games as the second half, and there were only two occurrences where he held without a point for consecutive games.

Obviously, it’s hard to talk about Dahlen at this point without also discussing Elias Pettersson. As fans are well aware, Dahlen and Pettersson, the 5th overall selection by the Canucks in 2017, were teammates on Timra IK in the Allsvenskan. There they spent a large part of the season playing together as Timra’s top line.

Through various parts of the season, the Timra coach tried both Pettersson and Dahlen as centres (Pettersson spent a large chunk of the first half of the season as the second line centre), but both players, and the team in general, were most successful when they were playing together. They suited up on opposite wings with a veteran centre in between them. During the time they spent with Sebastian Lauritzen, they were the hottest trio in the league. As you’ll see below, that hard a lot more to do with the two teenagers than it did with Laurtizen.

You may also notice that Pettersson was slightly better without Dahlen than Dahlen was without Pettersson. This discrepancy repeated itself in terms of production in addition to this on-ice event data. Both are indications that Pettersson bore a little more responsibility for their positive results than Dahlen, which is okay (especially since the Canucks own the rights to both players), as Pettersson is fairly universally seen as the better prospect (which is why Dahlen is being profiling today and Pettersson has yet to make his appearance on this list).

That doesn’t mean that Dahlen’s results aren’t impressive though. Even without Pettersson, he was well above 50% in goals-for ratio, and was the main catalyst in almost every other line combination. Dahlen also fared better than Pettersson last season in international play. During the World Junior tournament, Dahlen put up seven points in six games and led the whole tournament in shots on goal. His shot numbers were equally as impressive in the Allsvenskan, where he averaged about four shots per game, finishing second in the league in that category.

Dahlen’s 2017-18 season is currently a matter of debate. He has the option of returning to Sweden and playing with Elias Pettersson in Vaxjo of the SHL (an option that I quite like for him), but as of now his plan seems to be to attend Canucks training camp, which could lead a season in the American Hockey League instead. Even that is currently up in the air, as it was recently reported that Dahlen has been diagnosed with mononucleosis, forcing him to miss the Young Stars prospect tournament in Penticton. While Dahlen claims he wants to get back to playing right away, this illness can often persist for months after a diagnosis is rendered, and continue to take its toll on a player well after they’ve been cleared to return to play. Which means, we should keep that in careful consideration in the event that Dahlen gets off to a bit of a sluggish start when he does return to play.

He will return to full health eventually though, and when he does, he’ll continue to be one of the Canucks top prospects. Should he spend the year in North America, I don’t think it would be out of the question for him to see some NHL game action towards the end of the season. As for when he’ll stick with the club full time, I’d predict that both he and Pettersson will be roster regulars in the 2019-20 season, and that they’ll begin their ascension into the top six shortly after that.

  • So the top four are Brock Boeser, Olli Juolevi, Elias Pettersson, and Thatcher Demko?

    Guesses as to the final order?

    I’m betting on:

    4. Demko
    3. Juolevi
    2. Pettersson
    1. Boeser

    Pettersson’s probably go the highest ceiling, but Boeser is the surest bet given his NCAA numbers and short time in the NHL. Maybe CA will surprise us and flip them.

  • apr

    So much better than Sam Bennett. For all the flack the Nucks get over Jake, they could have easily drafted Bennett or Dal Colle. That said, I don’t get it with Nucks prospects getting mono. Cassells, McCann, and now Dahlen.

    • Peachy

      Well, the Canucks couldn’t have drafted either player, because they didn’t own a high enough pick. This is a nitpick though. Get it? Nitpick draft picks? I’ll see myself out.

      That said, I would gladly take Bennett, Ehlers, Nylander or hell, even Ritchie over Virtanen at this point. (I know, the horse is dead, but you brought it up.)

    • I’m not sure what your point is. Literally every other player taken in the top 10 of that draft has a better shot at being an impact NHL player than Jake Virtanen. Ekblad, Reinhart, Draisaitl, Bennett, Nylander, Ehlers, and Ritchie are all established NHLers already. Michael Dal Colle had more than double Virtanen’s point totals in the AHL last year, and Haydn Fleury had more points than Virtanen as a defenceman. Sam Bennett’s had some struggles so far in his NHL career, but he’s on a very team-friendly contract.

      Young men tend to get mono. Lots of other teams’ prospects get it too.

      • Chris the Curmudgeon

        Why stop at #10? Kevin Fiala has a bright future (before getting hurt he looked very solid in the playoffs last year for the Preds), Brendan Perlini forced his way onto the NHL roster last year with 14 goals in 17 AHL games, and then scored at a 20 goal pace for the Coyotes. Jakub Vrana is buried behind ridiculous depth in Washington but has outgrown the AHL and will get a shot this year. Not so sure about Julius Honka, but he’ll be a full time NHLer this year at least. Dylan Larkin goes without saying. Sonny Milano at #16 is the first guy that I would have to question whether I would want over Virtanen.

  • Canucks Realist

    It’s clear to see that LinBennings actual succession plan for the Sedins is to try and emulate them with the ultra lightweight Pettersson and Dahlen combo. Everything these clowns do is so obvious and is an utter travesty in the making. These boys look like two undernourished schoolkids, do they even know how to hit! LOOK at your division LinBenning, small with speed just will not work in the Pacific. There is no size, power or grit in any of these prospects to match up against the powerhouse Cali teams and Edmonton.

    I’m deadly serious when I say I just cannot believe it. Jim Benning was specifically hired to emulate the Boston Bruins that beat us in 2011. There was a clear plan – big, heavy, physical, hard to play against, bang and crash to the net and score dirty goals was the mantra then and it was totally logical.

    Instead we have changed like the weatherevery year instead of sticking to the plan, which was a solid one when competing in the tough Pacific and ultimately the playoffs.

    There is a reason why the final two in the West were Smashville and Anaheim.
    Smurfs on skates won’t even make the playoffs and Dahlen/Pettersson are the poster boys for that… PLEASE deluded playoff starved Canucks fans see the light, we need new management with a new, bold and solid plan. WE are not the Pittsburgh Penguins. Enough of this charade!

      • Canucks Realist

        Talking of not sticking to the plan Gooner, YOUR opinions are up and down like a junkie in Gastown. You know i’m right pal, so for once pull them splinters outta your a$$, jump off that fence and admit it!

    • ENFORCER

      Best post i have read on here in a long time and bang on. Bunch of powderpuffs on ice. Lucic, Maroon, Kesler, Getzlaf and the LA Kings are already licking their lips. It’ll be lambs to the slaughter. Still, maybe Derek Dorsett will ‘step up’.

      • Cageyvet

        Ah yes, another alter ego to jump in and support the multi-troll. All angles are welcome, as long as they slam management. No Canuck player is worth a damn if you listen to these idiots.

        Thankfully, the majority of us know better. I wouldn’t mind so much if it was remotely entertaining, or well-reasoned, but it’s just the Jim Rome slagfest mentality. You know, the kind who give actual fans a bad name, since a fan is supposed to support his team. I don’t expect blind support, but contribute meaningful criticisms without the same old, tired, belligerent rhetoric every…….single……..time……

    • bobdaley44

      Power and grit? Kessel, Crosby, Malkin et all sure crashed and banged their way to the cup. Not downplaying size but todays game is skating and skill. The Bruins and Kings have fallen behind so to use them as model is sadly mistaken.

  • Jabs

    A bit of a side note regarding the introduction and the reference to Hamhuis and Vrbata. It is unlikely that Benning could have pulled this trade off if he hadn’t stuck to his guns by refusing to gives players away for next to nothing. By setting the stage and establishing that he is not a pushover we can welcome Dahlin to the fold.