Tim Soderlund has made a habit of standing out. While his name might not have rang the same bells in the press as Swedish world junior teammates like Elias Pettersson or Rasmus Dahlin, make no mistake: Soderlund made an impact on the team, as he has consistently done in the past. The Chicago Blackhawks pick was a force in Buffalo and while I don’t want to raise expectations too much, he really looks like he could be the next Viktor Arvidsson.
“He plays a speedy game,” said Sweden coach Tomas Monten. “He uses it on the forecheck, making tough hits and getting in a guy’s face. But he can also use it to score and create offense.”
Sound familiar? And there are more parallels between Soderlund and Nashville’s Arvidsson. Both are undersized, 5-foot-9 wingers who were passed over in the draft initially before getting scooped up in subsequent years by Central Division teams in the fourth round – with the 112th pick overall. Both have worn No. 9 for Skelleftea in the SHL.
Soderlund is the current owner of that jersey and has already established a career-high in points this season with eight through 26 games, including six goals. Born and raised in Skelleftea, he’s happy to play for the team, which currently sits mid-table in the SHL.
“Everyone there wants to win,” Soderlund said. “We practise hard all the time.”
The teen winger told me he didn’t think about the draft too much in 2016, when his talents went unrewarded, but that getting drafted by the Blackhawks one year later was a dream come true. He is on the final year of his contract with Skelleftea and it will be interesting to see where Chicago wants him next season. In the meantime, the Hawks are keeping close tabs on the youngster through their European development coach, a former NHLer himself.
“I am talking a lot with Mikael Samuelsson,” Soderlund said. “He watches my games and we talk after, mostly about the small details and what I can do better there.”
At the world juniors, he played on a line with Boston Bruins pick Oskar Steen and 2018 draft prospect Isac Lundestrom, a skilled, two-way center who looks like a first-rounder right now. The trio got acclimated in the summer at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Michigan and was impressive every time the players donned the Tre Kronor jersey.
“That line has been our best all season,” Monten said. “They’re really useful; they can play in all situations. They can play against a top line, they can play as a power line and they can score. Tim is a big factor: speed, work ethic – you put him on and he goes and then you have to take him off…otherwise he’d just keep going.”
That motor will certainly serve Soderlund well once he comes over to North America. Right now, he’s still getting used to speaking publicly in English, but he does have a taste of Chicago the city from his time at Blackhawks development camp.
“I like it there very much,” he said. “Nice beach there, too.”
And it’s probably best that Soderlund is more enamored with the city’s famous lakeshore than with another popular Chicago tradition: I asked him if he had ever tried deep-dish pizza and Soderlund had not heard of the regional delicacy. With his speed, you can’t have a heavy meal like that slowing him down anyway…