One of the axioms of professional sports is that big young prospects need time to grow into their bodies. Two years ago, the Detroit Red Wings realized that wasn’t true with 6-foot-8, 245-pound Swedish forward Elmer Soderblom.
“When we had him here in training camp and we do some fitness tests, it was pretty exciting to see where he was at,” Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman said. “It wasn’t like ‘When this guy gets stronger, or when this guy gets powerful,’ he’s already powerful and he’s already explosive. Can you imagine as he continues to work at it, where the potential is here?”
Yzerman and the Red Wings have watched with keen interest as their sixth round draft pick has developed into a bonafide scoring threat. He has scored 21 goals in 52 games for Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League.
“I’m not trying to over-hype him but we’re cautiously optimistic that he’ll be a real good NHLer,” Yzerman said.
That’s high praise because Yzerman, as Detroit fans know, chooses his words carefully when discussing prospects.
Soderblom Scores Spectacular Goals
Soderblom has been impressive to the point that Yzerman confirmed he wants to get him signed, and then bring him to North America next season. Yzerman also confirmed that Swedish defenseman Albert Johanson (Drafted 60th in 2019) and Finnish defenseman Eemil Viro (Drafted 70th in 2020) will also be coming over. They are already signed.
Eemil Viro, #6 for Finland, drafted at 70th Overall in 2020 by Detroit. Only Red Wings prospect returning home from WJC with a medal. 0+2 in 7 games and a +7. pic.twitter.com/Kd9U3wmFWF
— IcehockeyGifs (@IcehockeyG) January 6, 2021
“We’re very excited about having all three of them in our system and closer as they’re all roughly 20-21-22,” Yzerman said. “I’m trying to think of which years they were drafted, 20 and older. They have a chance to be NHLers. Is that in the fall? I’m not sure yet.”
These three players are in addition to Swedish defenseman Simon Edvinsson (Drafted 6th in 2021). The 6-foot-4 Edvinsson certainly isn’t a lock to play on the Red Wings next season. But the Red Wings will give him every chance to make it.
It is probably more difficult to know whether a European player is close because they are used to playing a game that is different than the North American version. European ice is 15 feet wider. The Red Wings weren’t sure last fall whether Luke Raymond would be ready, but he showed he was. Meanwhile, Jonatan Berggren went to Grand Rapids and spent the entire season there.
“(Edvinsson) does have a chance, yeah,” Yzerman said. “I want to say a real good chance to play in the NHL next year. It’s a bit of an educated guess based on okay, this is what Moritz Seider did in the Swedish League last year.”
Johansson, 21, has already played 141 games in the SHL. His Farjestad team is currently playing in the league’s championship series against Lulea. Viro, 20, has played 134 games in the Finnish League.
Berggren Has A Shot
Yzerman said the Red Wings hope Soderblom makes the Swedish roster for the upcoming World Championships.
“Even going back to last year, the staff was pretty aware that he was starting to make strides and is coming along. This year we get to see (Soderblom) on Twitter and Instagram some of the spectacular goals…,” Yzerman said. “It’s pretty fun to watch, pretty encouraging. Is he a huge surprise for us at this point? Based on what he’s done the last couple of years, his progress, we’re pretty excited about it. Sure he’s a pleasant surprise but we need some surprises within our drafts. We can’t just expect to be picking in the top 10 every year and get a good player. It’s going to take a long time to build a team that way.
“We need some of these players that are second through seventh rounders to make it. They’re not all going to make it, but it looks like he’s got a good opportunity. You see the highlights, he’s a really good athlete.”
Although the Red Wings have not officially signed Lulea’s Pontus Andreasson, they have agreed to join the team. He is 23, meaning it’s likely he will be trying to make the Red Wings in training camp. He has eight goals and 12 points in 10 SHL playoff games.
Berggren will also be competing for a job.
“I sit here today and I say I’m not gonna pencil Jonatan Berggren into the lineup but I’m also not going to say that he’s destined to play in GR,” Yzerman said. “Let’s see how training camp goes. Let’s see how the preseason goes and we’ll make a determination at that point. But in the interim in the offseason, I will try to improve our team and if I can acquire a player that I think is going to help us, I intend to do hat. I don’t sit here and plan on saying I’m gonna give Prospect A or Prospect B a spot on the roster.”
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