Olympics a showcase for projected NHL top pick Rasmus Dahlin

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GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Rasmus Dahlin sees the ice better than he sees his future.

Everyone else is doing that for him.

All eyes are on the smooth-skating, offensively gifted 17-year-old defenseman at the Olympics with the entire hockey community aware that he’s almost a lock to be the No. 1 pick in the NHL draft this June. Dahlin is not only Sweden’s youngest player but the youngest in the men’s hockey tournament and the focal point given his seemingly limitless potential.

”He’s one of a kind,” said Joel Lundqvist, the team captain and a Swedish Hockey League teammate. ”It’s so impressive how from last year with all the pressure around him and he took a big step this year and now he’s here in the Olympics at 17 years old.”

Dahlin is living out a childhood dream playing at the Olympics and insists he has not thought about the draft or playing in the NHL. If – or more likely when – he goes first overall, Dahlin will be just the second Swede to get that honor, but he has not spoken to Mats Sundin about what to expect and prefers to keep his attention on the Olympics and his season with Frolunda.

”I’ve got so many things other to think about: eat, rest, sleep and train,” Dahlin said Wednesday. ”I haven’t think so much about that. I’m just living in the here and now. I think that is the best thing you can do.”

Dahlin has six goals and 11 assists in 35 games playing against grown men in the Swedish league and impresses teammates even in practice.

”We just have to enjoy playing with him, seeing all the good things he does and how he develops every day,” said Norway’s Mats Rosseli Olsen, who plays with Dahlin in Sweden. ”You can come to practice every day and get surprised just watching him. He’s something else than everyone I have ever seen as long as I played. It’s fun to see how good he is.”

Dahlin is a treat to watch because his game so closely resembles that of countryman Erik Karlsson. His skating and puck-moving looks effortless.

”He’s just got really good poise out there and really good confidence,” Canada defenseman and Frolunda teammate Stefan Elliott said. ”He’s good at handling the puck, obviously, but I think it’s his poise and his confidence. He’s not afraid to make plays and things like that.”

Analyst Craig Button, who has been watching Dahlin since he was 15, said the young Swede has never seemed overwhelmed in a game. That counts the world junior championships and an exhibition game this week against Canada, but the Olympics are Dahlin’s biggest test yet.

”You’re just taking it in,” Button said. ”You never get to evaluate players against NHL competition, so this is a notch up. You’re projected to the NHL. There’s nobody in my view close to this guy.”

Teams ”Fallin’ for Dahlin” at the bottom of the NHL standings know what they would be getting. Naturally, he’s going to get stronger with time but could be an immediate help for the Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators or whoever wins the draft lottery for the chance to plug Dahlin in on their blue line.

Months before that, Dahlin should be a useful player as Sweden attempts to win its first Olympic gold medal since 2006. Dahlin was 5 then and doesn’t really have the ability yet to grow the beards of some of his teammates.

”He’s a calm guy,” former Colorado Avalanche forward Dennis Everberg said. ”I’m impressed how he acts like with the media and everything like that. The media have been all over him lately, obviously, and he handles that very well, too.”

Lundqvist, the twin brother of New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, knows everyone is wowed by Dahlin’s YouTube-friendly moves but he is more impressed by how he always finds a way out of trouble and tight spots.

Dahlin doesn’t think there’s much magic to it.

”I give 110 percent every day and try to be better every day,” Dahlin said. ”I just love the game and I can’t think about something else than hockey.”

Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.