BUFFALO, N.Y. — Rasmus Dahlin has been a household name in the hockey world for more than a year, anointed the next great Swedish defenseman as a teenager and etched in stone as the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft before the 2017 draft even happened.
He has been deemed a ‘‘generational’’ talent, the kind of defenseman who can step right into the NHL and be an elite player. Sort of a defensive Connor McDavid, if you will. It’s a lot of hype for a guy who just turned 18 in April.
‘‘I don’t think it’s unfair because of what he’s done the past two years,’’ Blackhawks director of scouting Mark Kelley said. ‘‘It’s easy to look at him and project that he is going to be one of those franchise-altering players.’’
If Dahlin is feeling that pressure, he’s not showing it. The calm, composed, quiet 18-year-old was surrounded by seemingly every camera and reporter in Buffalo — his new home as soon as the Sabres make their pick — at the draft combine Friday and greeted it with a shrug.
‘‘I learned to not think about it,’’ he said. ‘‘Just focus on what I can do every day. Just eat, sleep. I have so many other things to think about. I feel it’s kind of easy.’’
Everything seems kind of easy to the 6-2, 183-pound Dahlin. He had seven goals and 13 assists in 41 games with Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League and posted six assists in seven games at the world juniors. One Western Conference scout said that he’s as good a skater as he has seen at this age and that there are virtually no weaknesses in his game.
Dahlin suggested that his defensive game could use some work and that he wants to put more weight behind his accurate, but not booming, shot. He said his ‘‘hockey IQ’’ was his best trait. But the truth is, he’s as perfect a defenseman prospect as the league has seen in years.
‘‘He’s most likely going first overall for a reason,’’ forward prospect Brady Tkachuk said. ‘‘He brings offense, and he’s a great defensive player, too. He’s an unbelievable player.’’
Who’s No. 2?
There’s plenty of drama about which players will be taken after Dahlin. Forwards Andrei Svechnikov, Filip Zadina and Tkachuk are in the mix, with a few top defensemen right behind them.
Zadina played it coy when asked how he would rank the three forwards, including himself.
‘‘Good question,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s the reason why I didn’t want to be the GM. It’s really hard to decide it. . . . I would put all of them in second place. I don’t want to be rude to the guys. They’re all very good players.’’
Svechnikov is probably the likeliest to go to the Hurricanes at No. 2, but he didn’t hide the fact that he’d love to fall to No. 6. That’s because his brother, Evgeny, already plays for the Red Wings.
‘‘It’d be fantastic,’’ Svechnikov said through an interpreter. ‘‘It’s been a dream of ours since we were children. We want to win the Cup together.’’
Tkachuk is the son of NHL great Keith Tkachuk and the brother of Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk. He has been slotted anywhere from third to 10th since breaking out at the world juniors with three goals and six assists in seven games for Team USA. His dad went 19th to the Jets and his brother sixth to the Flames.
‘‘It’s a hidden competition,’’ Tkachuk said. ‘‘We don’t really talk about it much, but, yeah, it would be nice to be the highest.’’
Tkachuk said he’ll wait until after he’s drafted and talks with his new team before deciding whether to go back to Boston University for his sophomore season.