Last we saw Jonathan Dahlen, he was trying to forget Vancouver.
GM Jim Benning claimed Dahlen, purportedly unhappy in AHL affiliate Utica, asked for a trade — the now 23-year-old denied then that he had made such a request — but any way you slice it, it was an ugly divorce.
“It’s a long time ago. I don’t think back to that. I wish them well,” Dahlen said after practice today. “Every hockey player has a path. My path was here then back home then back. Maybe not the normal one.”
Not normal, indeed. Dahlen is back in North America now at San Jose Sharks training camp: He’s been in Sweden during the last two years, piling up points for Timra IK and helping his hometown club get promoted to the SHL.
He’s also, at least three days into camp, the possible favorite to get a crack at the top-six on opening night. Since camp commenced, he’s been skating with Logan Couture and Timo Meier.
“It’s a great opportunity to play with two amazing hockey players,” Dahlen noted.
If the Swedish winger can replicate even a fraction of his Allsvenskan output — he notched 148 points in 96 games — that would certainly help the goal-starved San Jose Sharks.
Or just as helpful: Maybe he can match his father Ulf Dahlen’s production. Ulf Dahlen scored 655 points in 966 career NHL games, four seasons spent in San Jose.
Meanwhile, last year’s Sharks floundered, finishing 25th in the league in scoring. They’re also currently without last year’s leading goalscorer Evander Kane, under investigation for sexual assault and domestic battery.
But to contribute at the highest level, the 5-foot-11 winger will have to overcome questions about his quickness and strength. Also, he’ll have to adjust to the smaller North American ice. It’s worth remembering though — he’s familiar with North American rinks, having spent the 2018-19 season in the AHL.
Dahlen, actually, is looking forward to this particular challenge: “It’s a lot more fun, hockey on smaller ice. It’s more intense. There’s a lot more that happens. It goes a lot faster.
“There can be some periods that aren’t that fun on the big ice surfaces when there’s not that many shots on goal in a period, it’s more defensive.”
As for his quickness and strength?
“I’ve matured defensively,” Dahlen pointed out of his last two years in Sweden. “The offensive mind is still the same, everything else has grown.”
Of course, it’s not everyday that a second-division Swedish player makes the jump directly to the NHL. Dahlen, however, wasn’t concerned that his development had been stunted in Allsvenskan: “I don’t see a huge difference between the top teams in the second league to the bottom teams in the SHL.
“I don’t think that matters a lot. We worked hard off ice and I feel a lot better than I was. I’ve gotten better every year.”
We’ll see soon: The San Jose Sharks start the pre-season tomorrow evening in split-squad fashion at Anaheim and Vegas. Dahlen will be playing against the Vegas Golden Knights, presumably on a line with Couture and Meier.
If Dahlen doesn’t break camp with the Sharks, he hasn’t ruled out going to the AHL. However, he would be subject to waivers and his contract also has a clause that allows him to go back to Europe to play if he so chooses.
But right now, Ulf’s son is focused on blazing his own NHL trail.
When asked about the No. 76 that he’s sporting in training camp — a possible combination of Ulf Dahlen’s No. 22 and Jonathan’s No. 54 in Timra? — the San Jose Sharks prospect laughed: “That’s funny. I never thought of it that way. 22 + 54. But yea, I just got the number when I got here.
“My number is 54, but it’s taken [by Scott Reedy]. And 22, [Mark Alt] also has it.
“If I change, I’d probably go to 54. 22 is my dad’s.”
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