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Photo Credit: NHL.com

CanucksArmy’s 2018 “Midterm” Prospect Rankings: #5 Jonathan Dahlen

Getting a read on Jonathan Dahlen’s draft-plus two season is difficult when considering the extraneous factors at play.

The original plan for Dahlen this year was to come to training camp and eventually play in the AHL to become acquainted with the North American ice and style of game. Unfortunately, that idea fell off the tracks when Dahlen suffered mononucleosis– a sickness that took the Swedish winger out of the Young Stars’ tournament and training camp.

Mono is renowned for lingering effects including fatigue that can affect the victim for up to several months. The Canucks didn’t want to leave Dahlen in a vulnerable position in the AHL, so they loaned him back to Timra IK of the Allsvenskan with a January 31st opt-out clause that could prompt a transfer to the SHL. That clause came and passed with Dahlen choosing to remain with Timra so as to aid his club of three years in their promotion attempts.

Dahlen’s performance as both the Allsvenskan Top Forward and MVP is enough for him to check in as the 5th best Canucks’ prospect.

Numbers

For all that’s made about Dahlen’s success with Timra, it’s fair to point out that he was unable to improve on his 2016/17 point totals. The contextual factors around him definitely changed with Elias Pettersson gone, though Dahlen did have two highly ranked 2018 draft-eligible prospects step up in Pettersson’s stead. Jacob Olofsson and Filip Hallander are both fringe first-round prospects that saw chunks of ice-time centring Dahlen.

What’s interesting is that neither Olofsson or Hallander seemed to reap the rewards of playing with Dahlen on their wings. Both centres actually produced more points per hour away from him than they did with him. In fact, Dahlen’s overall impact on his teammates’ scoring rate was mixed– not what you’d expect of an MVP calibre player.

Where Dahlen did have a positive effect on his teammates was with their ability to control on-ice goals scored.

Dahlen’s relatively neutral effect on his teammates’ scoring rates means that he’s unlikely to be an even-strength offensive catalyst at the NHL level. That may sound pessimistic, but it’s not an indictment on his abilities or potential. Rather, it’s to highlight that Dahlen should be seen as a complementary piece for a scoring line as he climbs through the ranks. It’s an assertion that makes sense when considering his plaudits as a clinical finisher as opposed to a dynamic creator.

pGPS

Dahlen’s statistical stagnation is reflected through the lens of the prospect Graduation Probabilities System. This was Dahlen’s third season in the tier-two Swedish league and while he continued dominating, he was unable to show statistical progression year over year.

Dahlen’s unique career path leaves him with few historical comparables when considering his scoring and stature based profile. The 20-year-old’s expected likelihood of success stands at just 27.7%, with an underwhelming expected production rate of 18.9 points.

pGPS definitely undersells Dahlen’s probability of success at the NHL level. Had it not been for his mono contraction, it’s likely that Dahlen spends most of the past season in a superior league like the SHL or AHL. Playing in a more competitive league would have definitely boosted his pGPS profile.

Scouting Report

My assessment of Dahlen as a complementary offensive piece moving forward makes a lot more sense when you watch him play.

Dahlen may be undersized at just 5’11 and 175 pounds, but he does most of his damage in tight, below the hash marks. He’s a smart and elusive player around the net in that he finds seams and routes to slip between defenders and get open right in front of the blue paint. By the time opposing defenders detect the coverage lapse, he’s likely already scored a tap-in. In the instances where the opposing team is well positioned, he likes to peel off to the side where can take advantage of his lightning-quick hands. Those hands aid in his stickhandling, which proves to be a huge asset when it comes weaving in and out of traffic while driving to the net, protecting the puck while waiting for a play to develop, or executing an extra move to create an angle for a high-percentage shot attempt.

Skill around the net isn’t the only tool in Dahlen’s offensive kit. His underrated vision allows him to commonly find teammates for cross-ice passes after drawing defenders himself. On the rush, Dahlen excels as a traditional up-and-down winger that can both get in on the forecheck or skate up the wall to snap off a wrister.

The common criticism for Dahlen is the explosiveness in his first few strides. Having said that, his overall skating ability is fine and shouldn’t be seen as a detriment to his bread and butter game down low. If anything, it could affect his transition game on the rush, though he doesn’t rely on it much for offensive success anyway.

There’s a lot to like with Dahlen’s offensive package, but it’s fair to wonder how that might translate onto the smaller North American ice rinks. Fortunately, we had the chance to answer that exact question when Dahlen joined the Utica Comets for six games down the stretch. Few in the industry followed him closer in Utica than resident Comets’ expert Cory Hergott, and so it was a no-brainer to turn to him for his assessment of Dahlen’s game in the AHL.

 

[Dahlen] showed excellent edge work with his skating, he wasn’t afraid to go to the dirty areas of the ice, in fact, he seemed to be seeking those areas out. He put up one goal and two helpers during those six games, but he also showed well on the defensive side of the puck, often being the first forward into his own zone on the back check. He showed a knack for drawing defenders to him and being able to dish a filthy pass to a teammate for a scoring chance.

I have seen a lot of people penciling Dahlen onto the Canucks roster for next season already. I am not sure that he will be ready to make the team out of camp, as I feel like he will need a little more time in Utica to sort out the North American game.

 

The move to flip an ageing Alex Burrows for Jonathan Dahlen at the 2017 trade deadline might just go down as Jim Benning’s best trade to date. Dahlen’s skating ability could limit his abilities as a dynamic offensive threat, but his hockey sense in the offensive zone enables him to read off of and flourish with playmakers that think a step ahead. Afford him some patience as he adapts his game against tougher defensemen, and there’s no reason to think that he can’t be a contributor for a scoring line down the road.

  • Dan the Fan

    Gaudette ahead of Dahlen? Dahlen has first line potential, I don’t think Gaudette does.

    The Province has Gaudette at #5.

    Looking forward to the rest of the list. (Well, really only the next 3, we all know who #1 is.)

      • Locust

        The ‘coulda – – woulda – – shoulda’ just has to stop.

        We have who we have. We don’t have who we don’t have.

        Where is this nonsense going to end …. “Well you wouldn’t be here, you just rode in on a lucky sperm….”

        I realize it is off season but some of these back and forths are like an autismic soap opera.

        Just stop. Do it for the kids……

      • TD

        If Benning had selected Granlund or Baertschi with the picks everyone would be overjoyed and saying that is why they needed to keep the picks. Instead those same people are criticizing the trades. Most second round picks don’t work out. Most NHL players only play a couple of years. CA uses 200 games as a successful NHL player. Other sites use 100 games. Sven has played 259 games and his career is far from over. He is a half point per game player and is borderline 1st liner last year in ppg rate. Granlund has played 224 games and is a .33 ppg player. Neither player is a superstar by any means, but they would be considered a successful draft pick by any of the standards.

        I hope Lind and Gadjovich both surpass Baertschi and Granlund, but chances are one of them won’t. I know Granlund was a trade for Shinkaruk and not for a second rounder, but the value from the trades surpasses the value of those picks in many of the cases. The trades were gambles just like the picks would have been.

    • Defenceman Factory

      I don’t see any value in getting into that debate. Dahlen was a great trade, hope Joulevi and Lockwood turn into solid NHL players and it’s unfortunate the Canucks didn’t hit on another couple picks in 2016.

      Probably worth mentioning that at least a couple guys drafted in 2016 but not signed would have likely been signed if drafted 3 or 4 years earlier because of the complete dearth of prospects in the organization at that time.

        • Defenceman Factory

          I tend to agree with you but your initial comment was an open invitation to debate with those whose comments are only ever made to disparage Benning. You won’t change their minds, their opinions are well known and they just whine until they get the last word.

    • Dirty30

      How far do you go back? “Shoulda never traded Cam Nealey!” etc etc etc …

      Getting Goldobin and Dahlen for Burrows and Hansen were good moves simply to replace two players who simply were not able to get it done anymore. Goldobin is showing some commitment and development and could be an interesting player. Dahlen looks to have some potential as well and could be the kind of third line player who is plopping in goals when your two top lines are matched against other teams’ two top lines.

      I don’t care if Dahlen is better than Gaudette or vice-versa … if those two can create some chemistry and pot in goals on a fast and skilled third line then its all good!

    • orcasfan

      Good article, but there is some inconsistency….You begin with noting how mono derailed Dahlen’s early season, even mentioning that the illness can have an impact for months. But the rest of your analysis is based on his season stats this year with Timra, noting that his stats did not show improvement over last year. Well, perhaps the effects of the mono could have been that deciding factor? What would have been more informative, would have been an assessment of that potential impact by looking at his stats, say, before January and after January. I know he seemed to have a fabulous playoff run. Was that indicative of his play during the latter part of the season, when we can assume that the mono would have really dissipated? This is exactly the kind of situation that just relying on stats (not saying you are!) can be a mistake.

      For myself, I expect Dahlen will be a big plus to the team, a definite A version of Baertche!

      • Rodeobill

        I had mono when I was about his age. It was all I could do some days to keep standing at work and my eyes open. It was like having eaten a strong sleeping pill that lasted months. I gotta think that he had better treatment that I had, but I can’t imagine it NOT having an impact on his performance.

  • TheRealPB

    This is kind of an oddly underwhelming article. Dahlen showed really well over the course of the season despite the recovery from illness and you seem to undersell his performance both in the qualifying round for Timra and in not an easy situation to step into in the AHL playoffs. I thought he acquitted himself the best out of any of the late season additions — much more noticeable than the few opportunities that Lind had or Jasek despite the latter putting up better numbers. There were a couple of moments that as Cory pointed out, his defensive awareness and backchecking were really noticeable. Additionally some superb passes to set up line mates; I thought Dahlen looked indeed like he might be on the bubble to make the Canucks next season.

  • Sandpaper

    I like the kids character .
    Whether he makes Canucks or starts in Utica, is fine by me, just want these guys available to be ready for a callup, if needed.
    Some development in Europe is fine, but, when they are close to being ready, it makes sense to have them readily available in Utica.

    • Locust

      True – a number of our prospects should start in Utica.
      Then bring them up for injuries and at the end of the year. We wont be making the playoffs anyways so a year of playing on the small ice against men will bode well going forward as the current top western teams start their decline.
      Just don’t do an Edmonton.

      • orcasfan

        In fact, Dahlen has been playing with men – for the last couple of seasons. I don’t think the “smaller ice” is always such a big factor. Especially for some players who are not so peripheral. Apparently, Dahlen is definitely not a peripheral type player. For him, and other Euros, a big part of adjusting involves the coaches, and the systems that are used. Those systems are bound to be somewhat different from what he is used to. He may start in Utica, depends how he shows at training camp.