Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman did a curious thing at his year end press conference: he effused praise on a prospect not even in North America. Don’t be fooled: Yzerman certainly talked about his prospects in the past, going back to Moritz Seider a season ago.
But he’s usually holding things much closer to the vest. So when he is pretty open about the organization’s excitement regarding Elmer Soderblom, everyone listens.
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“Based on what he’s done the last couple of years, his progress, we’re pretty excited about it,” Yzerman said. “Sure he’s a pleasant surprise but we need some surprises within our drafts. We can’t just expect to be picking in the top ten
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.”
Detroit Hockey Now’s Kevin Allen wrote already about how Yzerman was impressed with Soderblom. The cautious optimism that Yzerman has regarding the towering forward is about as ringing of an endorsement one could ask for. With a tricky trade market and free agency being unpredictable, Detroit may be promoting its own.
The Detroit Red Wings Don’t Want Prospects Bouncing Around
To preface the argument, the Detroit Red Wings will be reluctant to have players bounce from Grand Rapids to the big club. Since both Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider started immediately in Detroit this season, a stint in GR isn’t required. Raymond noted that he was ready for whatever came his way.
“Coming in, I didn’t really have any expectations,” Raymond said. “I was prepared for both. If it didn’t work out, to come and play in GR. But of course I was gonna do everything I could to make the team.”
He certainly did and made an immediate impact. Anticipate the same from the guy he expects to train with this summer: Simon Edvinsson.
“He’s a very skilled defenseman, especially with the size he has with real good skating,” Raymond said. “I’m really excited for him to come over next year. I’ll for sure meet with him this summer and skate with him.”
Edvinsson seems the likeliest of the prospects to start with Detroit. Prior to the season, it was debated whether Seider and Raymond would make the team. Ultimately, they both proved their worth in camp and the rest was history.
The same seems possible for Edvinsson. Steady for Frölunda in 2021-22, Edvinsson had 19 points (2-17) in 44 games and it’s just nine points less than Seider’s performance with Rögle a season prior (7-21-28). However, Seider prepped a year with Grand Rapids prior to his 2020-21 season and was a year older.
Though Yzerman has described them as different players, it doesn’t undermine Edvinsson’s performance. If anything, he’s the strongest candidate to have a Raymond-like trip straight to Detroit.
Berggren Should Be Up and Maybe Soderblom, Too
While Soderblom is more of a darkhorse candidate, it all but seems a done deal that Jonatan Berggren will be in Detroit on opening night. The 21-year-old set a Grand Rapids rookie record with 64 points (21-43) in 70 games. For an organization that wants to see their young players succeed in the AHL, it only seems natural Berggren is in the lineup.
Soderblom has yet to sign a contract, but that seems to simply be a matter of when and less than an “if.” Since Yzerman and the organization are already impressed, it’s not far fetched to think he too could pull a Raymond of his own and skate onto the opening night roster.
With 21 of his 33 points being goals, he would provide further scoring punch if it indeed transfers over.
In a very delayed (flight problems) Game 4 of the SHL finals, Färjestad has taken the early lead.
Albert Johansson's defensive play gives him an assist on the 2-0 goal in the 1st period #LGRW pic.twitter.com/UFKnp3kdoN
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One other name to potentially pencil in is Albert Johansson. Lost in the Soderblom, Edvinsson, and Berggren talk has been the Red Wings’ second round pick from 2019. Not only has he logged big boy minutes for Färjestad, he’s been playing playoff hockey all the way to the SHL Final this season. Johansson was on the radar last season, and built on what had already been an impressive performance in 2020-21.
The roster still has to be sorted out and with a new coach coming aboard, conventional wisdom states that some faces will be rotated out or not re-signed. This obviously opens the door for Red Wings prospects.
But will they go the route of Seider and Raymond?
“They have a chance to be NHLers,” Yzerman said. “Is that in the fall? I’m not sure yet.”
One thing for sure is that more Detroit Red Wings prospects will have a chance to stake their claim in 2022-23.