If you asked Detroit Red Wings fans which prospect they were most excited to watch at the World Junior Championship, the answer would’ve been probably unanimous: Lucas Raymond. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2020 draft and one of the most exciting forward prospects in the whole tournament. However, what Red Wings fans didn’t expect was the emergence of one of their sixth-round picks playing for the same team to make just as big of an impact. That man is the 6’8″, 238-pound behemoth, Elmer Soderblom.
Big Man, Pretty Goals
The big Swede was one of the talks of the tournament despite the team’s loss in the quarterfinals to Finland. He had one of the prettiest goals of the tournament in the team’s opener against the Czech Republic. Raymond fed him a pass at his favorite spot, in front of the net, and he went between the legs and buried the puck in the top left corner.
Soderblom and Raymond then replicated the exact same play in Saturday’s loss to Finland. Once again parked in front of the net and Raymond in the right circle, the two connected and Soderblom went between the legs to give Sweden a 2-0 lead at the time. They were beautiful goals in their own right, but a man who stands at 6’8″ with that kind of hands is not something you often see in hockey.
So, Who Is Soderblom?
Coming into the 2019 NHL Draft, Soderblom wasn’t exactly on a lot of people’s radar. He was less than impressive playing for Frölunda HC‘s U20 team, netting just 17 points in 44 games. He also played for Sweden’s U18 team at the 2019 World Junior Championship, where he had just one point in seven games. The Red Wings took him in round six with the 159th pick of the draft to little fanfare.
Soderblom then showed some promise in 2019-2020, having a much better season at the U20 level. In 36 games, he had 29 goals, which led the J20 Superelit, and 55 points, which was good for fourth. He also managed to play ten games at the SHL level with Frölunda before being loaned out to Tingsryds AIF at the Allsvenskan level where he played five games. He had no points at either level that season.
The 2020-2021 season started out a bit rough for Soderblom. He played just four games at the U20 level and had four points. He came to the SHL team and hasn’t found any success. In seven games, he has had zero points and got turned into a highlight by fellow Red Wings prospect, Moritz Seider.
Despite his SHL struggles, the Herculean winger had a lot of eyes on him during the 2021 World Junior Championship. He had just three points in five games which, by itself, doesn’t sound that impressive. But his ability to skate, use his strong body and long stick created several scoring chances for Sweden and earned him player of the game honors multiple times, including Saturday against Finland.
A Bigger Tomas Holmstrom?
During the broadcast of the World Junior Championship, Soderblom was compared to former Red Wings menace, Tomas Holmstrom. Holmstrom was known for tormenting goalies in front of the net by limiting their sight and deflecting shots. Soderblom showed a lot of that as he was frequently in front of the net on the power play. Even though he didn’t put up points that way, his body blocking the vision of the netminder played a part in multiple goals for Sweden.
However, while he does have that same quality that Holmstrom had, Soderblom has the potential to be a more complete player due to the hands he has as well as his size. He is able to use his strength and extra-long stick to beat defenders easily. On many occasions during the tournament, he created his own scoring chance with a move or just outmuscling his opponent.
The goals that he scored can show how skilled he is, but it’s the little things when rushing the puck that can make an impact at the NHL level. He’s not particularly fast, but he has a long, powerful stride that can make him difficult to deal with. You don’t see many players his size in general, let alone at forward, so he’s a different beast to try and handle for a defenseman.
He has a good shot too, which he showcased on a few occasions. On one chance in particular against Austria, he had a nice toe drag to open himself up around the defenseman and then rifled a wrist shot off the crossbar. Plays like that are what can set him apart from other forwards his size, and is why, despite the NHL becoming a smaller and faster league, a guy like Soderblom can make it.
Should Red Wings Fans Expect Soderblom in Detroit?
It’s a question that Red Wings fans all around the world will be asking after his performance in the World Junior Championship. Will we see Soderblom in Detroit? It’s a tough question because he’s a sixth-round pick just one year after being drafted. If he does make it, it definitely won’t be any time soon. The Red Wings franchise has been known to keep players in the AHL for a while for seasoning before making the jump. While he was impressive this past week, he definitely still needs some seasoning.
With that in mind, Soderblom is someone who Red Wings fans should be prepared to cheer at Little Caesar’s Arena. He has the tools to make the eventual jump, and while he probably won’t be a star by any stretch of the imagination, his physicality and skill should provide a fun combination for Red Wings fans to watch in the future.
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