Carl Dahlstrom is now a Vegas Golden Knights defenseman after coming to the team along with a fourth round draft pick from the Winnipeg Jets for center Peter Stastny. The move was one of several things the VGK did to open up the cap room to sign top free agent prize Alex Pietrangelo. Although the return went widely unnoticed because the trade was deemed a “salary dump” for Vegas, Dahlstrom could be a key piece of the near future.
At just 25 years of age, Dahlstrom is a former second round pick (#51) by Chicago Blackhawks in 2013. The Stockholm, Sweden native has 64 games of NHL experience under his belt between the Hawks and Jets. And at 6-4, 231 lbs. he brings good size and an impressive reach.
While his NHL offensive numbers aren’t fantastic – just 10 assists in those 64 games – Dahlstrom is just entering a phase of development where many defensemen begin to flourish. It used to be that if a player hadn’t made his impact by 24 he was written off. Stories of players making it later in their careers were few and far between. But with players coming to the NHL via other routes than major junior, the conversation has changed. Some players opt to play pro overseas first. Others go the US college route. Either way, we’re seeing more players migrate to North American hockey later than ever in many cases.
If we look under the hood for Dahlstrom’s advanced metrics, things aren’t bad. Though limited to just 15 games with the Jets last year, his Corsi-for was 51.4% and Fenwick-for 50.7% – on a Jets team that clearly listed defense as its weakest link. Plus his Team On-Ice Save Percentage figure has risen every year of his three years in the NHL, hitting 93.1% last season.
One thing to keep in mind was that the Jets were a team based on superior goaltending and being able to score enough goals to survive. Vegas is not built that way, especially now with Pietrangelo patrolling the top pairing. Heading into training camp Dahlstrom figures to compete somewhere between the six and eight spots on the depth chart.
Something else I look at is the Jets were rebuilding their blueline. The team claimed Dahlstrom off waivers from Chicago as part of that effort. It’s possible he just never quite fit in with either Paul Maurice’s plans or system in the ‘Peg.
Another reason to believe in his upside was his trip to the AHL All-Star Game in 2017-18. At the break, he was leading the Rockford IceHogs in assists and finished with 25 helpers in 64 games. He added only three goals, so clearly his emphasis is more on passing than shooting. It never hurts to have a defenseman with the vision to distribute the puck, especially given Vegas’ talent up front.
It’s easy to overlook depth acquisitions when they’re made. But Dahlstrom should get at least a handful of games for the Golden Knights this season. He is in the final year of a two-year deal with an AAV of $850k and salary of $900k in 2020-21. It makes sense that the VGK would like to see what they have not only in camp but in the regular season if given the chance.