In this week’s Detroit Red Wings prospects roundup, we’re going to be spending the bulk of our time in Sweden, otherwise known as Hockeytown East. The Swedish Hockey League (SHL) currently features a slew of Red Wings prospects that are doing great things for their respective teams, inspiring hope that they’ll be showcasing their talents in Detroit sooner rather than later.
But fret not, we will be checking in on somebody stateside who is lighting it up for the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Red Wings’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate. Without further ado, let’s dive in and check out today’s report.
SHL – Frölunda HC
Elmer Söderblom – Winger
THW Rank: 20
Games played (GP): 19
Stat Line: 8 Goals (G), 11 Points (P)
To put it simply, Söderblom has been impressive to begin the 2021-22 season. As a sixth round pick in the 2019 draft, not much was expected of him, outside of the typical allure that comes whenever the Red Wings take a shot on a Swedish player late in the draft, a la Henrik Zetterberg. And yet, since his draft day, Söderblom has continued to make a name for himself in the prospect world by utilizing his 6-foot-8, 238 pound frame along with some sneaky good skill to present himself as a prospect that has some real offensive upside.
Part of the reason his rank was so low in our recent prospect rankings was due to his limited upside. Söderblom projects as a bottom six forward that can chip in here and there on offense. While there is room for variability, and it’s worth noting that other factors were taken into consideration, a player with middle six potential is almost always going to rank higher on the list. Furthermore, there is still some concern about whether or not this player will be able to skate with the best of the best here in North America, though he is working towards quelling those concerns this season:
With eight goals so far this season, Söderblom is tied for fourth in league scoring, though he has played the most games out of anybody tied with him or above him on the list. Still, he’s showing the nose for the net that made him a standout player for Team Sweden in last year’s World Junior Championship Tournament (WJC), and that’s a promising sign as he continues to develop. This isn’t a prospect that you can expect to arrive in North America and take the world by storm like Lucas Raymond, but the idea that he could arrive in Grand Rapids next season and find some success is definitely not out of the question. By the time our next rankings come out, he will definitely place higher on the list, and it’s not just because of the graduation of players that ranked ahead of him.
Simon Edvinsson – Defense
THW Rank: 3
Stat Line: 1 G, 9 P
Given that Edvinsson featured in last week’s update, this is less about his play so far this season and more about his recovery from what was initially believed to be a concussion. One week later and word is he is now ready to play. Apparently the sixth pick of the 2021 draft was simply battling an illness. Now that he’s feeling better, you can expect to see more highlights on Twitter of him doing ridiculous things over in the SHL.
SHL – Rögle BK
William Wallinder – Defense
THW Rank: 8
Stat Line: 3 G, 8 P
At 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, Wallinder represents another one of the Red Wings’ young up-and-coming defenseman with size and skill. The 32nd pick of the 2020 draft seems to have taken the next step in his development, playing 16 games in the SHL this season while performing well after spending his entire 2020-21 season in the HockeyAllsvenskan – essentially Sweden’s equivalent to the AHL. The next step for him could be to make Team Sweden’s WJC roster this year and then perform well there as well.
While he’s not as big as guys like Edvinsson and Söderblom, it is a little surprising to see how well he moves around on the ice given his size. Going back to his draft year, Wallinder is a player who has always excelled at leading the rush from his own end, but his offensive instincts haven’t always been the most fine-tuned. He’s been liable to make careless mistakes with the puck, and his defensive game has never been in a place that can make up for it. Ultimately, his ability to reach the NHL will depend on his ability to round out his game in both ends of the ice. That he’s looking this good early on this season with Rögle is a positive development and, if it’s a sign of future things to come, he may very well work his way into the top five of the next prospect rankings. He’s got a ton of potential, and it seems like he’s finally starting to take his game to the next level.
AHL – Grand Rapids Griffins
Taro Hirose – Left Wing
THW Rank: NR
Stat Line: 2 G, 11 P
Given that he’s a veteran of 42 NHL games – and he was left off the recent prospect rankings – it might not be fitting to include Hirose in this update. However, as one of the players that is undoubtedly on the shortlist of players that would be called up to Detroit in the event of injuries to the Red Wings’ forwards, it seemed important to highlight what he has done for the Griffins to start this season.
Hirose is the only Griffin that is currently scoring at above a point per-game pace. While nine games isn’t exactly a sample size worth getting worked up over, it is important to contextualize that information by stating that this builds on last year’s campaign where he finished a point under a point per-game pace through 29 games. Overall, through 73 games in the AHL, the 25-year-old winger has a total of 12 goals and 66 points. To compare, Filip Zadina posted 51 points through 80 games in the AHL before joining the Red Wings on a full-time basis.
Realistically, Hirose is probably stuck in that purgatory between being an elite AHL player and an everyday NHL player. Despite always having a positive impact on possession and showcasing brilliant playmaking abilities, he hasn’t played more than 26 games in a single season at the NHL level, and that was during the 2019-20 season that most people around Hockeytown prefer not to think about. If/when he gets an NHL opportunity this season, he needs to make the most of it so that his next contract isn’t a two-way deal.
Victor Brattström – Goalie
THW Rank: NR
Stat Line: 4.59 Goals-Against Average (GAA), .844 Save-Percentage (SV%)
If nine games isn’t enough of a sample size to go over in Hirose’s case, then three games definitely isn’t anything worth getting worked up over in Brattström’s case. However, it is a little disheartening to see the Swedish netminder struggle so mightily in his first taste of AHL action, especially after being one of the biggest bright spots during the Traverse City Prospect Tournament and Training Camp.
That being said, this shouldn’t be THAT big of a surprise. The 24-year-old never posted eye-popping numbers in the SHL or in the Finnish Liiga, so for him to sputter out of the gate in the second-best league in North America should have been expected. It was that strong play during the preseason that recalibrated expectations of the 2018 draft pick; now it’s time to recalibrate those expectations back to where they were originally.
By no means am I suggesting it’s time to look away from Brattström – far from it, actually. It’s one thing to perform well when you’re stationed in one city for an extended period of time like he was during training camp. It’s another thing when you’re traveling around a foreign continent and playing meaningful games with and against players that you’ve either just met or are still getting used to.
While the memory of Filip Larsson’s lone season with the Griffins still lingers, it’s far too soon to write off this rough start. The strong play of veteran Calvin Pickard ahead of him is kind of a double-edged sword as it means Brattström isn’t necessarily under pressure to perform well right away, but it also means that he isn’t going to be seeing regular ice time that would potentially allow him to find his footing with his new team.
Long story short, give this situation time before we jump to conclusions.
Who would you like an update on next week? Is there anybody I missed this week that you would like to highlight? Be sure to leave a comment down below!
I am a Western Michigan University alum whose passion for hockey knows no limits. Dr. Pepper enthusiast. Catch me and my fellow Red Wings writers’ YouTube show “The Hockey Writers Grind Line” which drops every Saturday.