BUFFALO, N.Y. — Heading into Thursday night's season opener against Montreal, there wasn't much hope for the Buffalo Sabres this year outside of the team's dressing room.
But in the room, there is a young team with a fresh confidence and a coach who believes they can accomplish much more than the low expectations set out ahead of them.
The Sabres' first overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, Rasmus Dahlin, is entering his fourth season in Buffalo at just 21 years old. He told 2 On Your Side's Julianne Pelusi he can feel the difference in the culture.
"I don't feel like it's the old the Buffalo Sabres anymore. It's something new," Dahlin told Julianne ahead of Thursday's season opener.
"All these young guys coming from winning cultures, and everyone wants to compete against each other, and we have such hard practices and battle so hard... but after practices we laugh, and I think the competitiveness in this team right now, it's very high... I really think we can do something good."
Youth won't be wasted on the young this season in Buffalo.
The Sabres' maturing roster will grow under the direction of head coach Don Granato, who took over last March and went 9-16-3 in 28 games, after Buffalo fired Ralph Krueger in the middle of the season. The "interim" tag on Granato's title went away in the offseason.
"He came in with such a great attitude. So, so positive, and the way he wants to want us to play, it just fits me very good," Dahlin said about Granato making positive changes to the team.
"He basically just told me just go out there and have fun, get some excitement back, and just being confident out there, and good things will happen."
Good things did happen. One month after Granato took over, the Sabres defenseman tallied five points over five games in the back end of the season.
The 21-year-old is now locked into Buffalo for the next three years after signing an $18 million contract just three weeks before the season began.
Dahlin didn't hesitate to acknowledge that he's not a cornerstone in the Sabres' latest rebuild.
"Rebuild is a rebuild, and you got to build that battle through it," Dahlin said.
"We have a really exciting young group here, and we all are on the same page. ... I think I really think we can do something good."
Dahlin the Sabres will be rebuilding this time without their former captain Jack Eichel, whose trade away from the team is imminent. Dahlin said the two players are still friends and still talk while Eichel is away from the team.
He's happy with the state of the team, and said he's the most comfortable he's ever felt in the dressing room with plenty of other players around his age.
And Dahlin loves the city where the Sabres new team is being built.
"The city, I love it. It's great," Dahlin said. "All of this great restaurants and the Bills are playing so good right now. I love coming back here. I was missing it over the summer."
Dahlin said he's been watching the Bills every Sunday and gave Buffalo's quarterback perhaps the highest compliment a hockey player can give another athlete:
"Josh Allen is a player, eh?!"
"I really want to be in Buffalo," Dahlin said. "I really want to make a difference here, and I want to give the people what they deserve."