Elmer Söderblom embraces expectations with ‘huge’ Detroit Red Wings debut

Detroit Free Press

Elmer Söderblom came away from his Detroit Red Wings debut with a memory for a lifetime, made all the more special because he could share it with his parents.

The Detroit Red Wings’ big man — Söderblom is 7 feet tall on skates — scored the winning goal in the Wings’ season opener — at home, against an Original Six rival — reinforcing the decision to put him in the lineup over a more experienced player. Ville Husso, who made 29 saves in Friday’s 3-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens, only has to go against Söderblom in practice, and that’s enough to leave an impression.

“He’s a great player, big guy,’ Husso said. “Lot of skill, can shoot the puck pretty well, too. Dangerous player.”

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During exhibition season, Dylan Larkin described Söderblom as a “huge asset.” It’s hard not to use words like “huge” and “big” when describing Söderblom, because when he extends his stick, he seems to cover half the width of the ice. It was last season, while he was scoring 21 goals with Frölunda in the Swedish Hockey League, that the 21-year-old really grew comfortable playing to his size.

“My last year in Sweden was really huge for me to play against me and really use my size and my body,” Söderblom said. “I’ve been working on it every day and I think I am improving.”

He scored when he knocked the puck between Jake Allen’s legs at 2:33 of the third period. Michael Rasmussen brought the puck out from behind the net for a wrap-around attempt, and Söderblom pounced on the rebound. A fan tossed an octopus onto the ice after the goal, which Söderblom knows is a sign of approval.

“I know it’s a tradition, “he said. “It was fun to see.”

Oskar Sundqvist also drew an assist on the goal. The group was put together because of its size appeal: Rasmussen is 6-6 and, much to his amusement, Sundqvist at 6-3 is the smallest guy on the line. From the first shift in the opener, they played a hard, relentless style. Play more games like that, and the line will need a nickname — Storväxt, Swedish for big, as in tall, or Skyline, for the height?

Credit the coaching staff for seeing the potential of playing those three together.

“That was the vision of putting that line together,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “They really set themselves up and got the hard goal from below the goal line, which was exciting.”

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Lalonde said Söderblom, “handled it way better than I even expected. We want him to replicate what he did. As you saw, I trust him in every situation. He’s a lot more responsible with the puck. He didn’t get lost in our coverage. And he got rewarded with a goal. So yeah, really happy for Elmer.”

So were his parents, Susanne and Martin, who watched from the stands at Little Caesars Arena. They arrived in Detroit Wednesday, two days after Söderblom made the 23-man roster. Söderblom took his parents out for dinner at Parc on Thursday. They’re in town for a week, so will be able to watch him when the Wings play again at home on Monday.

In the meantime, Söderblom savored his first goal.

“It’s hard to describe but it was an unbelievable feeling and really fun,” he said. “Really fun for them, too, to see me live.”

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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