As some teams prepare for the Stanley Cup playoffs, others are setting their sites on the NHL draft lottery on April 28 -- and the possibility of drafting Rasmus Dahlin. Where is he likely to go, and where would he be the best fit?
Dahlin is a 17-year-old Swedish defenseman who is ranked No. 1 by ESPN's Chris Peters, and also tops the list (among European skaters) for NHL Central Scouting, McKeen's Hockey, Future Considerations, ISS Hockey and HockeyProspect.com. Considered a complete defenseman, Dahlin represented Sweden at the 2018 Winter Olympics and in several other international tournaments.
This season, he scored 20 points in 41 games playing with Frolunda, which is the equivalent of 25 points in a full 82-game season in the NHL, based on the historical performance of players who came from the SHL.
That may not sound like many points, but there's a strong precedent for that estimate. For example, Victor Hedman scored 21 points in 43 games in the SHL in 2008-09 and was drafted second overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning, with whom he scored 20 points in 74 games the following season.
Hedman by no means was a first-year underachiever. The average rookie scoring performance for him and the seven other defensemen who were drafted in the top five and moved immediately to the NHL since 2005-06 is 23 points in 72 games. In fact, there were 10 other defensemen drafted in the top five in this time frame who didn't play in the NHL at all in the season after they were drafted.
Even if Dahlin has just a 50-50 chance of being a top-four defenseman who scores 25 points in 2018-19, that is still a hot commodity. Last summer, free agents such as Kris Russell, Brendan Smith, Dmitry Orlov, Michael Stone, Justin Schultz, Karl Alzner, Dmitry Kulikov and Trevor Daley signed long-term contracts with an average cap hit of over $4.3 million, and were slotted in at roughly No. 4 on each team's blue-line depth chart. During the season, Erik Gudbranson signed a three-year contract extension with the Canucks with an annual cap hit of $4 million.
In the salary cap era, getting someone with Dahlin's upside on a low-cost, entry-level contract is of tremendous value. Let's consider the impact he would have on each of the teams with the greatest chance of winning the draft lottery, according to the calculations at Hockey Viz.