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Sweden has the likely No. 1 NHL Draft pick, but they're barely playing him

Rasmus Dahlin is very likely to hear his name called first at the 2018 NHL Draft. (Getty Images)

Rasmus Dahlin has an incredibly bright future ahead of him. The 17-year-old is the overwhelming favorite to be selected No. 1 overall in the 2018 NHL Draft. He has elite tools as a defenseman that leave NHL teams salivating. Now, he’s at the Olympics playing for his native Sweden as one of the most visible talents in a tournament devoid of NHL players.

And yet, he has logged all of four minutes and 36 seconds of ice time as Sweden enters tournament play in PyeongChang.

Dahlin saw his time on the ice during the first and second periods of Sweden’s second game of the tournament, a 1-0 win against Germany. He did not reach the ice during the third period, eventually registering the fewest minutes of any player in the game. He was also a healthy scratch for the team’s first and third games against Norway and Finland, respectively.

On the surface, this does not make sense. There are no NHL players on this Swedish team. There are no NHL players in PyeongChang. The vast majority of the Swedish roster plays in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League or the Swedish Hockey League. Dahlin has apparently held his own while playing in the SHL, registering 17 points in 35 games this season.

It’s hard to believe Dahlin is really the least game-ready player in his position group. Seriously, how many players in the Olympics, not even the Swedish team, can do stuff like this?

And yet, the most important stat for Dahlin at this point is that he’s 17, making him the youngest player in the entire Olympic tournament. The second youngest player on Sweden’s roster is defenseman Mikael Wikstrand, who is seven years older than Dahlin at 24 years old.

“He’s one of eight defensemen. We can only dress seven,” Swedish coach Rikard Gronborg said Sweden’s first game per Sportsnet. “He’s a tremendous hockey player. There’s no question about it. I don’t think you need me to tell you that. But he’s also 17 years old.”

It’s also worth noting that defensemen take longer than forwards to develop in the NHL, so while Dahlin possesses the raw tools to be superstar, the Swedish team might not think he’s physically ready to face fully grown adults.

The Swedish team probably isn’t complaining too much right now, considering it’s 3-0 and holds an 8-1 goal differential. But whatever the reason Gronborg has for holding Dahlin, be it physical maturity or something else, it sure is a disappointment for hockey fans tuning into the Olympics to see a phenom.

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