Elmer Soderblom quickly learns how to use his 6-foot-8, 249-pound tire to check goalkeeper and protect the discus and is hard to play against.
If he can combine that massive size with elegant hands, as he showed last season in Sweden, he could soon be one of the most memorable players in the NHL for the Detroit Red Wings.
Soderblom, 21, popped up during the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City as he gears up for his first season in North America, likely with the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins.
“Three years ago, I wasn’t really that smooth and comfortable with my big body and size,” Soderblom said. “I think I’m still working on it, using my size, and I think it’s getting better and better.
“I think my strength is in the attacking mentality and being around the net and being tough to play against, protecting the disc and using the big frame. I don’t know if I model my game on a particular player. I want to be unique in my own way.”
The 2019 Sixth Round pick (159th overall) is certainly unique. Norris Award-winning former defenseman Zdino Chara, at age 6-9, is the only player in NHL history longer than Soderblum. Among the active players, Vancouver defender Tyler Myers and potential Ottawa goalkeeper Mads Sogard are also 6-8.
Ben Simon, who coaches the Red Wings and will be Soderblum’s coach at Grand Rapids, noted the strides he’s made since his first and only North American appearance at development camp three years ago.
“His skating just got a lot better,” Simon said. “Just growing in his body he’s getting a lot stronger. You don’t know the size. So, when you have that body and that strength on your skis, and he protects the puck so well, if he can play down the tops of the circles and take the pucks into the net and make a living in the front of the net, It will be exciting for Wings fans to watch.
“It will be curious to see how this projection happens and how this development continues and what kind of path it takes. I am sure Detroit is very happy where it is now.”
Soderblum made two beautiful games in Saturday’s 5-4 loss to Dallas. He scored a drive into the net and converted a pass of choice by Amadeus Lombardi in the 2022 fourth round. Soderblom also made a superb pass to Spring Cross Hanas for free for a separate goal.
Simon said Soderblom is one of the “really special” players, not only because of his size, but also because of his skills.
“He moves his feet very well,” Simon said. “He will have a great time in the pro game in terms of moving the disc faster. You have less time, less space to move around. It might be good for him, but I also think it will be an acclimation period where he has to learn to use that to his advantage.”
It’s just a matter of Soderblum “getting some momentum” in North America, Simon said.
Simon said, “From the last I saw to where he is now, great strides, great progress.”
Söderblum’s confidence grew last season when he scored 21 goals and 33 points in 52 games for Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League.
“(The Red Wings) told me they wanted to see what I did in Frolunda, keep playing my game and maybe add more physical strength and play my size more,” Soderblum said. “I think that’s what I have to do to be able to take a place.”
Focus on improving his skating this summer.
“You have to do everything a little bit faster and I think it’s more physical,” Soderblum said of playing in North America. “You have to be able to take the hit and give the blow. Just be quick in your mind and (with) your feet and hands.”