by Colby Rogers || AHL On The Beat Archive
In just his second season with the Rockford IceHogs, defenseman Klas Dahlbeck has become a leader by example. Pegged as a stay-at-home defenseman during his young career, Dahlbeck is now showing the ability that he can become an all-around blueliner.
The Katrineholm, Sweden, native was drafted in the third round (79th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks. With a seven-hour time difference between St. Paul, Minn., where the draft was held, and his home in Sweden, Dahlbeck is lucky he didn’t have to wait until the early morning hours to find out he was selected in the third round.
“I was following on the internet,” said Dahlbeck. “My agent called me first saying that I got drafted by the Blackhawks. Then somebody called me from the organization.”
Playing parts of the past five seasons professionally is no small feat for a 22-year-old blueliner. Dahlbeck played his first game as a professional for Linköping HC, of the Swedish Elite League, in the 2009-10 season, totaling six regular-season games and three playoff contests. Prior to his professional debut, Dahlbeck played three seasons in Sweden’s Division 1 and junior leagues.
The 6-foot-2 defenseman spent a final year with Linköping in 2011-12 and also got the chance to play with the Swedish national team before jumping to the American Hockey League in 2012.
Dahlbeck now plays with fellow Chicago 2011 draftees Mark McNeill, Phillip Danault, Alex Broadhurst and Adam Clendening in Rockford. With Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw already playing in the NHL for the Blackhawks, the 2011 Draft could turn out to be a benchmark for the organization.
In his first season in the AHL (2012-13), Dahlbeck played in 70 games while recording one goal and five assists. He was named the IceHogs’ most improved player for the season.
But with a new season has come a much improved offensive game. Dahlbeck, who scored two goals in 108 games playing at Sweden’s highest club level, has 10 goals and 23 assists for 33 points in 61 games for the IceHogs in 2013-14.
“I think I’ve improved a lot since last year,” Dahlbeck said. “That was obviously a good start for me, coming over here, getting to know the game over here. I think I’ve improved in a lot of areas. Playing with the puck, feeling more confident with the puck and contributing with some offense this year.”
Dahlbeck tied the IceHogs’ all-time record for assists and points by a defenseman in a single game when he recorded four assists on Jan. 11 vs. Lake Erie. With just over a month remaining in the season, Dahlbeck ranks among the AHL’s leaders in goals (T-3rd) and points (10th) by a defenseman and also has an impressive plus/minus rating of plus-19, making him arguably one of the top all-around D-men in the league.
IceHogs head coach Ted Dent agrees that Dahlbeck has found his stroke on the offensive side of the puck.
“I think he really set a goal this summer to improve his shot,” said Dent. “He changed his sticks and he wanted to be more a part of the offense than he was last year. I think we stress as a team that we really want to create offense from the point and get our defensemen shooting the puck a lot as well.”
The numbers agree. The lefty shooter had averaged just over one shot on goal per game in his pro career prior to this season. However, in 61 games this season, Dahlbeck has taken 144 shots for an average of 2.36 shots per game.
While showing a new scoring touch is great, Dahlbeck wants to show what he can do in the NHL above all else. However, he knows that there are areas that need to be worked on before he gets his shot, including “awareness of where everyone is so I can make better plays.”
Dahlbeck may have been known more for his abilities as a stay-at-home defenseman prior to this season, but he isn’t sitting idle in his defensive development.
“I’ve got to work on making even quicker plays and knowing where everybody is all the time. Same thing as the offense: awareness,” said Dahlbeck.
Dent certainly won’t cherish losing the Swedish defenseman once he earns a shot in the NHL, but the IceHogs coach will be proud of Dahlbeck and the development he has achieved.
“Klas is doing well. He’s really added a different part to his game this year with the offense,” Dent said. “He’s contributed offensively and got some points on the board. He’s really focused on jumping the rush and being a second layer for us and trying to get shots through from the point, as well as maintaining his defensive play and being a good stay-at-home defenseman.”
If Dahlbeck keeps showing the constant and measured improvements that he has shown in Rockford, it will only be a matter of time before the Blackhawks come calling.