Rahimi: Made in Sweden, Made for North America

By Matt MacInnis

It’s been said, and is indeed becoming a bit of a cliché, but the amusing truth of the matter is that if you were to line every prospect from the Canucks rookie camp up and ask an unknowing person to pick out the 20-year-old Swede, Daniel Rahimi would likely be the last person chosen.

Standing next to Alexander Edler, you would never guess they are similarly-aged countrymen.  With his dark hair and goatee and receding hairline, courtesy of the genetic disposition of his Iranian-born father, is about as atypical of a young Swede as you can find.  In this case you can judge a book by its cover; Rahimi plays a brutally physical game that far better suited to the North American style of play.  With 104 penalty minutes in just 33 games with Bjorkloven last season, HF asked the stalwart blue liner if he felt this stat was inflated by his reported lack of discipline.

“I think it’s both.  I’m a pretty young player, so sometimes of course you make some bad penalties.  But you know in Sweden it’s a lot different.  So I try to play my game and I think my game fits better here.  But I play a little tougher and you know you can throw pretty good hits in ref=”/teams/sweden”>Sweden and you’re 50-50 if you get a call.”

With that attitude, it’s not surprising that Rahimi immediately came to North America last year after Bjorkloven’s season was over and got into five games with the Canucks’ AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose, where he picked up just a single minor penalty.  Rahimi says that even though he’s always known his style of play is more compatible with the type of hockey typically played in Canada and the United States, he tried to avoid thinking about that during last season and has no regrets about opting to stay one final year.

“I don’t know.  It’s hard, you never know if you’re going to make it [in the AHL].  You can’t prepare for a season.  I think it’s hard to think about it, but I’m happy I stayed one year in Sweden and I could play World Juniors and a lot of games with the national team.  I think that’s helped me develop into a better player.”

But now that he’s here, Rahimi has no plans to return to Scandinavia anytime soon.

“I want to play in the minors this year if I get the chance.  And in a couple years maybe play in the NHL if I get the chance.  I’m really going to do my best to reach it.”

With Rahimi now landed (and likely destined for Winnipeg), Canucks fans will have many opportunities to get to know their third-round pick from the 2006 draft.  Standing in at 6’3, 213 lbs, the left-shooting defender is a purely defensive-zone blue liner with extremely limited offensive capabilities.  He handles the puck fine, but isn’t going to deke past anybody in any professional league.  His first pass out of the zone is solid – and the extent of his offensive contribution. 

“He is a defensive defenseman," said Canucks General Manager Dave Nonis. "You’re not going to see a lot of offense out of Daniel, it’s more keeping the puck out of our end and moving it up the ice, keeping it simple.  When he’s on his game, that’s what he’ll do.”

He’s looked quite rough around the edges in the early stages of the Canucks Rookie Camp in Victoria, British Columbia, but Nonis was quick to point out that Rahimi’s still recovering from a very long flight from Sweden earlier in the week.  Regardless of any jet lag he may be suffering, Rahimi has been one of the few prospects who have made a point out of cranking up the body contact at camp so far.

“[T]hat’s a part of my game,” explained the big Swede.  “If I’m going to show the coaches I’m a good guy I need to play my game and that’s to play tough, makes some hits some time.  That’s the way I play.”

Rahimi seemed to struggle at times with his backwards skating, but Nonis does not believe that it will prevent him from making the step to the next levels.  In fact, when asked about the Canucks’ strong depth at the defense position, Nonis grouped Rahimi with top prospects Luc Bourdon and Edler as players “who are all going to play at the NHL level.”

“He’s not a graceful skater, but he didn’t get beat very often one-on-one either.  I think he’ll be fine,” said Nonis.

Despite reassurances from one of the organization’s decision-makers, Rahimi acknowledged that his skating has been his primary focus over the course of the off-season.

“They always tell me I need to get up my foot work and I tried this summer and I hope I get some result on the ice so I try to be on my feet all the time and skate a lot.”
  
At this point, it is clear that Rahimi is a bit of a long-term prospect who will need at least two full seasons at the AHL level before he’s capable of playing full time in the NHL.  Nonis also revealed in a somewhat offhand comment that the organization doesn’t expect Rahimi to ever fill a top-four role with the Canucks.  Expect Rahimi to end up being assigned to the Moose at the end of the Canucks training camp and spend the year on the team’s third pair while getting some minutes on the penalty kill.

In the meantime, Rahimi appreciates having a fellow Swede in Edler there to help make the transition and is enjoying his time in Victoria which he describes as a beautiful city (and a location he could end up playing some games with if training camp goes poorly).  The team is staying at the highly-acclaimed Bear Mountain Resort and Rahimi admits that if he were a golfer he would definitely be hitting the links in his spare time.  For now, however, he’s concentrating on putting on a strong performance at rookie camp and earning an invitation to the main training camp with the NHL veterans.

Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future.  Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.