Just because Detroit Red Wings youngsters made roster doesn’t mean they’ll play in opener

Detroit Free Press

Elmer Söderblom said his parents are hoping to arrive this week from Sweden, in time to see him play.

It’s still not entirely clear whether that will be in Detroit or Grand Rapids.

With the luxury of not starting the season until Friday, and with two spare forwards, the Red Wings coaching staff is evaluating who makes the most sense to start against the Montreal Canadiens.

The top two lines appear set, with Dylan Larkin centering Tyler Bertuzzi and Lucas Raymond, and Andrew Copp with Jakub Vrana and David Perron, but beyond that, it’s changing daily. Tuesday’s bottom lines had Michael Rasmussen and Dominik Kubalik, with Filip Zadina and Adam Erne rotating on the left wing, and Joe Veleno and Pius Suter rotating at center on the other line, between Söderblom and Oskar Sundqvist.

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“It’s still a work in progress,” coach Derek Lalonde said Tuesday. “We’re still making changes to our forward group. What we’re fighting through is, if we’re not going to be able to find significant minutes and roles for Elmer and Joe, then we have to have that balance of what is going to be best for their development. So we are still fighting through that. I think that is going to take a life of its own this week, and even into the weekend.

“Maybe Thursday you might start seeing what it will look like on Friday.”

Sundqvist missed all preseason games recovering from an undisclosed injury, so his availability is one factor that will determine Söderblom’s role. The Wings want Söderblom, 21, to play “significant minutes” as Lalonde termed it, and that includes getting power play time. Seven-to-eight minutes a game isn’t going to cut it; in that case, the Wings would send Söderblom to the Griffins. Likewise with Veleno — the Wings want him playing, preferably at center, and seeing time on special teams, in his case, the penalty kill.

“Big picture, if it doesn’t look like we’re going to get you significant minutes and significant roles, then we’d explore possibly Grand Rapids,” Lalonde said.

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Söderblom turned heads for the right reasons during the preseason, making plays with the puck, scoring goals, and showing how he can maneuver his 6-foot-8 body in front of the net. It’s a role he played in his Sweden, and he’s relishing the opportunity to do the same in North America.

“I feel like I’m just going to play my game and if it’s going well, then it’s super good,” he said. “Otherwise I’ll play good minutes in Grand Rapids. I feel like I’m in a good spot and I’m just going to play my game and go for it.”

Once he learned he was on the 23-man roster the Wings submitted Monday, Söderblom let his parents know to get over here from Gothenburg.

“Hopefully they can watch me play a game,” Söderblom said. “That would be fun. They are coming here either way.”

If Söderblom is not at Little Caesars Arena, the Griffins also have a home game Friday. The Söderbloms can also catch Arvid Söderblom, Elmer’s older brother, who plays goal in the Chicago Blackhawks’ system, in Rockford, Illinois.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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