TORONTO – Jonathan Dahlen is fitting right on the San Jose Sharks’ top line.
Raise your hand if you’re surprised. I’ll start with my own – it’s a small sample size, of course, three goals in four games, but after two seasons in second-division Swedish hockey and a decent but unspectacular preseason, I wasn’t the only one with questions about the 23-year-old winger.
A couple Dahlen skills, however, are helping the smallish, not-too-speedy Swede succeed in the world’s biggest and best league.
We saw them in full force in the San Jose Sharks’ 5-3 victory over Toronto at Scotiabank Arena.
“He’s heavy, heavy, heavy on the stick. There’s a few plays there, especially in second period, where he went to the net and we just swung a puck there and he still got a stick on it. There’s a guy covering, trying to be underneath him. He still finds a way,” San Jose Sharks head coach Bob Boughner offered. “He’s a small area guy, a small game guy.”
The first Jonathan Dahlen (76) play here (00:01) actually has nothing to do with a heavy stick. But cool with the puck, he lifts it toward Timo Meier (28). That’s an easy entry.
Now, count the Dahlen touches. The first and most dangerous chance (00:07) is set up by Logan Couture (39) – but it’s an example of getting a quality shot off despite a maze of defensive sticks. That takes a quick and strong trigger.
The next is a little pivot to protect his stick (00:12) from Justin Holl (3) for an admittedly unremarkable backhander. Regardless, that’s pressure exerted on the Leafs.
Finally, it’s getting a touch on the point shot (00:25). It was blocked by Holl, but once again, pressure exerted.
Couture also observed of Dahlen, “He gets the puck off his stick too, really quickly.”
We see Dahlen’s heavy stick and quick release on his game-winning goal:
Credit also to Meier for sonning T.J. Brodie (78) and William Nylander (88) to win the puck in the corner.
Couture finds Dahlen, and the outstretched stick of Morgan Rielly (44) is no match for the rookie. Leafs’ goalie Michael Hutchinson never had a chance.
“He keeps [the stick] on the ice,” Couture noted. That makes the weapon both a fast shooter and more easily available.
Jonathan Dahlen, obviously, isn’t going to keep up this scoring pace. But if he’s able to keep getting pucks toward the net with his stick skills – he’s going to be a threat. A consistently dangerous Dahlen adds immensely to the San Jose Sharks’ forward depth, in theory taxed by the absence of last year’s leading scorer, Evander Kane.
“I just try to win pucks with my stick,” Dahlen said. “I’m not the biggest guy. I’m not going to be able to run any guys over.”
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