The Detroit Red Wings will have 68 players in training camp Thursday in Traverse City and 6-foot-8 Elmer Soderblom already has GM Steve Yzerman’s attention. And it’s not just because of his size.
Yzerman was encouraged by how well Soderblom’s performed at the NHL Prospects Tournament at Traverse City last week. He scored in every game, and every opponent had difficulty dealing with him. He was engaged every minute he was on the ice.
“The reason we brought him up there was because he was hurt and he missed a lot at the end of the season,” Yzerman said. “We just wanted to get him in some competition, get him banged around in games to prepare him for training camp. It turned out to be a great thing… he could of, if he’d wanted to, kind of floated through it a little bit. But he played really hard, he played really well. ”
Given the number of veterans Yzerman acquired this summer, it will be difficult for prospects to earn a spot on the Red Wings’ varsity. But Soderblom is, at the very least, off to a good start.
“We were really pleased with his performance and how hard he competed up there,” Yzerman said. “I think that bodes well for him here in the preseason, because he is one of those players that is competing to play for the Red Wings this year and he’s gonna have to really earn it. But it was a really positive weekend for him. We were really happy with his attitude and his performance.”
Red Wings Hope to Be Bigger
The Red Wings want to play with more push-back this season, and it would help if Soderblom was ready to weaponize his 248-pound frame and be a 20-goal scorer.
Even though Yzerman has plenty of veterans, he said Tuesday that he hopes some youngsters give him a reason to think long and hard about his opening day roster.
“Not necessarily gonna be specific,” he said, “but I’m expecting some of them to push. We’ll see.”
The likely candidates to push are winger Soderblom, defensemen Simon Edvinsson and Albert Johansson, plus center Marco Kasper. The longer shots are forward Cross Hanas, defensemen William Wallinder and Antti Tuomisto.
Hanas Drawing Attention
Hanas played 30 games for the Grand Rapids Griffins last season and was tied for the tournament lead in Traverse City with four goals in three games.
“He has great attitude,” Yzerman said. He had a good year last year. Two tough injuries. He worked very hard in the offseason. We think very highly of Cross as a young man and he’s a good prospect. His season was cut short by injury last year but we’re optimistic. And he did play well. A couple of goals he scored, he can put it under the bar off the half wall on the power play. He did that several times last year in GR. He’s played one year of pro hockey, he’s a young guy and he’s working really hard at it. He’s very competitive and he’s a real good person. We just hope he continues to improve.”
Kasper played one game for the Red Wings last season after his Swedish Hockey League season was over.
The projection on Tuomisto and Wallinder is they will get plenty of playing time with Grand Rapids. At the prospect tournament, coach Dan Watson played them together in all situations. Tuomisto is 6-foot-5 and Wallinder comes in at the 6-foot-4.
“Obviously (Tuomisto’s) a big guy,” Tuomisto said. “He passes the puck pretty well, he thinks it well. It looks like his pace of play is picking up. Again, we think he has a chance. William Wallinder is a good skater, has good puck skills. He’s got a chance. Albert (Johansson), he had a real good year for us in GR last year, finished the season injured. He’s 100% healthy, ready to go now. We’re optimistic about him.”