Vancouver Canucks’ prospect Jonathan Dahlen has found success in the AHL with the Utica Comets, but what will it take for the young Swede to be successful with the big club for years to come?
Acquired at the 2017 trade deadline in exchange for Alex Burrows, Jonathan Dahlen has been a prospect many fans have been high on since he joined the Vancouver Canucks organization. Amidst reports that the Canucks are currently shopping Dahlen, I thought it be fitting to look at what Dahlen will need to do in order to find success in Vancouver.
While Dahlen was just 19 years old at the time of the trade, Senators fans were angered by the deal, while Canucks fans were rejoicing at the new young prospect they were getting in a year where things were looking bleak for the organization.
Although Canucks fans had to say goodbye to the dragon slayer, they said hello to the newly acquired Dahlen, son of former NHLer Ulf Dahlen — with open arms. Being so young, Dahlen had loads of upside, and in a redraft of the 2016 draft, may very well find himself being picked in the first round as opposed to the second.
Dahlen has found success nearly everywhere he has played, and the same can certainly be said of his final seasons with Timra playing in his home country of Sweden.
In Sweden, the hockey leagues have a similar standings set up as Italian soccer — I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Italian soccer leagues, but this is how I explained it to my Italian immigrant grandfather. For those that don’t know how the Italian soccer tables are set up, allow me to further elaborate.
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Essentially, at the end of the season, the two bottom teams in the Swedish Hockey League standings play against the two top teams in the “HockeyAllsvenskan” — the Swedish league that is a tier below the SHL. The winners either remain in or get promoted to the top-tier SHL — while the losers get relegated to or remain in the Allsvenskan.
To make it simple, picture the two top teams from the AHL playing the two lowest teams in the standings in the NHL. The two winners from the two games played between the four teams get to compete in the NHL at the start of the next season. The reason I’m even mentioning all this is because Dahlen was a huge reason that Timra is competing in the SHL this year.
Timra was the club Elias Pettersson and Dahlen played for together during Pettersson’s draft year. As noted at the draft, Pettersson and Dahlen had undeniable chemistry with one another and struggled when their line was broken up during the year. When we didn’t know how good Pettersson would be, this wasn’t too big a deal — really, we didn’t know how good either of the young Swedes would be.
In his draft plus-one year, Pettersson joined the Vaxjo Lakers of the SHL, while Dahlen stayed down with Timra in the Allsvenskan league. The record-breaking success Pettersson had that year with Vaxjo was well documented and extremely eye-catching for even the most casual Canucks fans. Meanwhile, Dahlen was quietly putting together his own stellar season with Timra.
Dahlen was close to a point per game player in each of his last two seasons with Timra, tallying 44 points in each. The only difference was, in his last season, he did it in exactly 44 games, whereas the season prior, it took him 45 games to hit the 44 point mark.
His last season in Timra was even more important because he helped Timra get promoted to the SHL at season’s end — all without his good friend and linemate Pettersson. He also won MVP of the Allsvenskan league on top of all that.
Dahlen has found success in the AHL with the Utica Comets this season as well, tallying 29 points so far through 50 games this season. He has only gotten better, and there are some who wonder if he could get called up due to the recent injuries to play with Pettersson. I decided to look into this more and reached out to Cory Hergott, known as Comets Cory on Twitter, to see what he thought of Dahlen’s play in Utica.
For those that don’t know, Cory is likely the most dedicated Comets fan on Twitter. He watches nearly every game and knows his stuff. I asked Cory the simple question — do you think Dahlen could make the jump to the Canucks this year?
Here’s what Cory had to say about Dahlen. “I think that he’s made improvements in his game from the start of the season until now, but I don’t see him getting a regular shift from Travis Green anytime soon.
His 200-foot game is still a work in progress, but again, has seen improvement. The thing that we all need to remember is that the end game for the coaching staff in Utica right now is to provide players to the Canucks who can “play for Travis Green.” That is important to remember.
As much skill as some of these kids have, they still need to be “better than Goldy has” when it comes to that 200-foot game, being “hard to play against” and be “a player he can win with.”
Cory’s comments reflect what we already know of head coach Travis Green. He is not going to hand anyone a shift who isn’t willing to work their butt off every time they step foot on the ice. We’ve seen it with Nikolay Goldobin. The last thing we need in Vancouver is another skilled young player sitting out because they can’t play defence up to Green’s standard.
Dahlen is currently fifth on the Comets in scoring, trailing only Reid Boucher, Tanner Kero, Zack MacEwen, and Brendan Gaunce. Obviously, Dahlen is the youngest of that bunch and may very well have the most upside.
The Comets coaching staff are working with Dahlen to actively improve his defensive play, and as Cory said, Dahlen seems to be seeing improvement. In order to make the team, however, Dahlen will need to commit himself to his play at both ends of the ice. Personally, I don’t think this will be much of a problem, as he will have already had experience of what Canucks’ training camps look like under coach Green.
On top of that experience, Pettersson will surely be helping his friend Dahlen prepare for what he can expect playing under Green, and what he’ll need to do to be a mainstay in a young Canucks’ lineup for years to come. Pettersson knows what Green expects from his players, and will surely be doing everything he can to make sure that information is provided to and absorbed by Dahlen.
Dahlen is progressing about as well as we fans could have hoped for, and while he appears to require a little more time to develop than Pettersson did, fans and management should not give up on the young Swede just yet. Dahlen may very well make the team out of training camp at the start of next year — hopefully playing alongside Pettersson.