BUFFALO – The roar lasted until defenseman Rasmus Dahlin reached the bench to celebrate the first of his two goals with his Sabres teammates.
Fans packed HarborCenter on Friday looking for a show from the first overall pick in his rookie camp exhibition debut.
So when Dahlin rewarded them, scoring his first goal 11:18 into the second period, the capacity crowd kept cheering for the young star.
Never mind the goal deflected in off one of the New Jersey Devils, not exactly highlight-reel material. The 2,000 or so fans ate it up.
“They support you,” said an excited Dahlin, who also scored the winning goal in the Sabres’ 6-4 win in the Prospects Challenge. “We laughed about it in the dressing room.”
Dahlin, 18, was just warming up. The slick Swede put the Sabres up for good 4:28 into the third period.
Unlike his first score, Dahlin showcased an array of talents, grabbing the puck in the neutral zone and feeding center Myles Powell before zooming to the net down the left wing and burying the rebound in the circle.
“You have to be lucky to get the puck,” Dahlin said. “When you get so much ice, it’s a good feeling.”
For good measure, Dahlin assisted on Tage Thompson’s short-handed insurance goal, sending the winger on a breakaway. Dahlin also leveled Ryan Schmelzer, who was Canisius College’s captain last season.
“He’s a special player,” coach Chris Taylor said of Dahlin.
Sure, it’s just one game. But Dahlin, who has been called the best defense prospect in decades, lived up to some of his enormous hype. Heck, before the game was 30 seconds old he wowed the crowd.
On his first shift, he roared into the New Jersey zone and pumped a shot, looking like a forward.
“I was excited, so I wanted to score a goal,” Dahlin said.
Taylor said he can’t teach something like that.
“He’s got the confidence and he’s got the ability to get back,” he said. “He’s a smart player, obviously. He knows when to go and when not to go. Those things are hard to teach. His instincts are amazing.
“A lot of guys wouldn’t have scored his second goal. But a lot of defensemen probably would’ve pulled back on that, but he’s got the instincts.”
Wingers Cole Coskey, Alexander Nylander (short-handed) and Victor Olofsson scored the Sabres’ other goals.
The Sabres play the Boston Bruins tonight.
Dahlin steals the puck, feeds it to Powell, and follows up the shot for the juicy rebound for his 2nd of the night. #ProspectsChallenge pic.twitter.com/q5RfXZZTGE
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) September 8, 2018