Carl Dahlstrom does not profess to be a goal scorer, and when pressed on the subject Monday afternoon, the thoughtful 24-year-old Swede said he couldn’t remember a single detail of his lone tally during a 22-game stint with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs in 2018-19.
His first NHL goal — he’s scoreless after 56 regular-season games spread out over three seasons — is still a dream. The NHL situation room snatched away what could have been the defenceman’s decisive tally in Winnipeg’s 1-0 shootout triumph over the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday night.
Dahlstrom’s marker, coming after a third-period feed from Patrik Laine, was disallowed after Mark Scheifele was ruled offside on the play.
“For the team, it was nice to get a five-on-five goal, hadn’t happened in two games I think,” Dahlstrom said, breaking into a grin as he recalled the sequence following Monday afternoon’s practice at Bell MTS Place. “It’s nice to crack that thing, but things turned out the way they did. I guess I’ll just have to keep chasing it.”
Scoring a goal is far down on the list of priorities for Dahlstrom, who has played seven games for the Jets since he was claimed on waivers from the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 1.
In Chicago, he was unable to beat out Slater Koekkoek for the seventh slot on the blue-line corps while the Jets, plagued by a raft of injuries to defencemen, including a lower-body ailment that will sideline veteran Nathan Beaulieu for up to a month, needed to solve a pressing problem with some experience — even if that was only temporary.
Dahlstrom has logged between 16:34 and 24:14 of ice time per game while earning the respect of his new teammates for his conscientious play.
His constantly evolving defensive partnerships have included Neal Pionk, Tucker Poolman and most recently, Dmitry Kulikov. And he’s fine with all of it.
“I think, obviously, it takes a little time, but I feel adjusted now, I feel like I know (everybody),” Dahlman said. “I’ve been fortunate to play with almost every guy on the D corps… I’ve kinda just been rolling around.
“That’s just the way it’s been with all the injuries and guys coming in and out of the lineup. I don’t think it’s just me. Every defenceman so far has been playing with everyone and that’s a good thing, trying to get to know each other on a deeper level out there on the ice.”
Jets head coach Paul Maurice was asked what he has learned about Dahlstrom in the past three weeks.
“Well, just about everything because I didn’t know a lot about him, right?” Maurice said. “That’s a quick turnaround — we were looking for defencemen and the waiver wire comes up. You spend five or six hours watching a guy play hockey (on video) and decide we’re taking him.
“Didn’t know he was as bright a hockey mind, and that’s just (learning) through conversations you have. He could detail the game very well. He’s picked up the systems quite well and he’s a young pro. You don’t have to get him to the rink early, you don’t have to get him to the gym. He does that on his own. He wants to be a hockey player.”
At one time, Dahlstrom was a very different hockey player.
He was 15 when he was asked to make what became a career-altering decision.
“I grew up being a goal scorer — I was a forward growing up,” said Dahlstrom, now a 6-4, 231-pounder. “It was actually for a regional team. I’m not sure if a defenceman got hurt… but they needed somebody to play D and they asked me if I could do it and they thought I really did well. I kinda went back and forth with my home team that season and eventually I just switched.
“I think it was just my skating and my size, it suits me better.”
Dahlstrom’s mobility was part of what sold Maurice initially. So was his reputation as a solid citizen.
“We watched enough video to know how he moved,” Maurice said. “There are big men that aren’t overly physical — 15 or 20 years ago that might’ve kept you out of the league. Now it’s got no bearing.
“If you’re big and can move, the last piece there is, is can you move the puck a little bit as well. We like him. Fortunately, we got some really good background intel on him through different people that we know… We had a pretty good idea of what he was like as a person before he got here.”
As he nears the 10-game threshold when waiver-wire pickups become more firmly attached to their new team, Dahlstrom says he has enjoyed his time with the Jets and is planning to stick around.
“I think for me as a player, there were small adjustments but I think I came here to do stuff similar to what I did in Chicago,” he said. “I think that’s why they picked me up. So it doesn’t really change for me. I always thought the Winnipeg Jets were a great team and tough to play against…
“I think for me, it’s all in my hands. If I do well enough, they’ll keep me.”
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.
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