The Detroit Red Wings have signed their biggest Swedish prospect (literally), paving his path to North America.
Elmer Söderblom, a sixth-round pick from 2019, is coming off a breakout season in the Swedish Hockey League, where the 6-foot-8, 249-pound forward recorded 21 goals among 33 points in 52 games for Frölunda. Söderblom, who turns 21 on July 5, had three goals and five points in 28 games in the SHL the previous season.
“I’m not trying to over-hype him but we’re cautiously optimistic that he’ll be a real good NHLer,” Wings general manager Steve Yzerman said in May. “When we had him here in training camp and we do some fitness tests, it was pretty exciting to see where he was at. 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 said the Wings wanted to get Söderblom signed so he could be brought to North America. The plan is to bring Söderblom, defenseman Albert Johansson (No. 60, 2019) and defenseman Eemil Viro (No. 70, 2020) will also be coming over.
“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. “They have a chance to be NHLers. Is that in the fall? I’m not sure yet.”
The Wings have gotten a boost from Yzerman’s top draft picks, with 2019 first-round pick Moritz Seider a finalist for the Calder Trophy and 2020 first-round pick Lucas Raymond topping 20 goals his rookie season. Simon Edvinsson, Yzerman’s top pick from 2021, is expected to compete for a spot in Detroit this fall. But for the rebuild to succeed, the Wings need help from lower-round picks, too, and that’s where Söderblom’s performance last season is such a promising development. He’s a good playmaker who can score eye-catching goals, and his frame alone makes him stand out.
“We need some surprises within our drafts,” Yzerman said. “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. It looks like he’s got a good opportunity.”
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