Arvid Soderblom’s bright future with Blackhawks coming quicker than expected

Arvid Soderblom’s bright future with Blackhawks coming quicker than expected

Blackhawks goalie Arvid Soderblom made his first two NHL appearances earlier this month. | Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The prospect goalie has impressed during his first season in the Hawks’ organization, and more NHL opportunities could arrive soon.

Arvid Soderblom’s valiant individual effort in his first NHL start on Jan. 2, albeit wasted by an unfocused Blackhawks team effort, didn’t go unnoticed.

The 22-year-old goalie impressed many inside and outside the organization with his poise and athleticism in the crease while making 37 saves that night against the Flames.

That showing, combined with his solid play in the AHL this season, has pushed Soderblom to the cusp of the NHL well ahead of schedule. He’ll likely be a familiar face around the Hawks’ locker room the rest of this season, and he might well become a regular next season.

“Playing that game — and I felt like I played pretty well, even though we didn’t get the result — made me feel like I can play on this level,” Soderblom said Wednesday. “That’s a good feeling to have when you’re up here. I know, if I was to play [another] game here, I can handle that.”

His next NHL start could actually happen soon with the Hawks’ usual backup, Kevin Lankinen, currently sidelined by so-called boxer’s fracture to a metacarpal bone in his hand.

Soderblom served as Marc-Andre Fleury’s backup throughout this past road trip, and although he was sent down Thursday (and replaced by Collin Delia) in order to play in one or both of Rockford’s AHL games Friday and Saturday, he might be back in the NHL next week.

Either way, interim coach Derek King believes Soderblom can learn from these intermittent stints with the big-league team.

“He’s getting NHL shots,” King said Wednesday. “He’s seeing how we operate here, the pace in practice…and just the everyday life of an NHL-er. It’s great. Eventually he’s going to be here [permanently]; we just don’t know how long it’s going to take him.”

That firm optimism about Soderblom’s future, despite his relatively little experience so far, is predicated on his swift rise over the past few years.

Never drafted, he existed totally off the radar until 2019-20, when he suddenly posted a .924 save percentage in 32 appearances in the Swedish second division. He moved up to Sweden’s top league in 2021 and posted a .921 save percentage in 22 appearances for Skelleftea.

Then the Hawks signed him to a two-year entry-level contract last summer, and he has come into Rockford this season and posted a .914 save percentage over his first 12 appearances.

He has done so even while adjusting to the implications of North America’s smaller rinks. He has noticed some differences in terms of increased traffic in shooting lanes and the frequency of shots from sharp angles, which have required adjustments to his tactics.

“[I’m] being a little more aggressive, taking my spot on the top of the crease and not letting people push you over,” he said. “[It’s about] just being stronger out there and earning that space. And then with the angles, [it’s about] being aware of where the net is. It took some time getting used to, but I’ve done that pretty good.”

His 6-3 height and boxy, wide-shouldered, Robin Lehner-resembling frame that fills most of the net certainly helps in those regards, too.

His personality comes across as confident but understated — much like his goaltending style, which King once described as “pretty calm, pretty cool…like he’s been in the league for a long time.” And his cultural transition has been aided by his girlfriend, Ann, and 1-year-old son, Hugo, moving to Illinois with him.

With Fleury, Lankinen and Delia’s contracts all expiring this summer (and his not), Soderblom might soon become more NHL-relevant. A Fleury trade by March could accelerate that timeline even further. But for now, he’s simply enjoying his first experiences at the big-league level.

“I’m excited for the opportunity,” he said. “I’m just trying to get the most from it, do the best I can in practice…[and] maybe get a shot in a game.”

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