Forward Henrik Borgstrom’s connections to the Blackhawks, despite being Panthers property his whole career until last month, are strangely plentiful.
He attended the same high school as Hawks goalie Kevin Lankinen in Finland. He played at the University of Denver alongside Hawks defenseman Ian Mitchell. And Denver won the 2017 Frozen Four at the United Center.
Now with the Hawks, Borgstrom is motivated to make the 2021-22 season the year his NHL career gets back on track.
‘‘Of course, that gives me energy,’’ he said Thursday. ‘‘Just having the thought that the team wanted me is really, really nice. [I’ll] try to work toward the beginning of the season. It’s going to be fun.’’
General manager Stan Bowman wasted little time after the season ended Monday, signing two new players — Borgstrom and Swedish goalie Arvid Soderblom — to two-year contracts.
The Hawks have a horde of NHL-caliber players to compete for roster spots next season, even if very few of them are sure-fire stars. Borgstrom, 23, and Soderblom, 21, add to that mix while bolstering the Hawks’ prospect pipeline.
Borgstrom is coming off a decent season with the Finnish club HIFK Helsinki, ranking eighth on the team with 21 points in 30 games. But playing overseas wasn’t where he expected to be at this point in his career. He regrets how his stints with the Panthers in 2018 and 2019 panned out.
‘‘There were games there that I could have been better,’’ he said. ‘‘Of course, it’s always coaches’ and management’s decision. . . . I was hoping to get a little more time, but I don’t like to think about it now. There’s going to be a new opportunity for me next season, and I’m going to be focused on that.’’
Borgstrom also has been hampered by injuries, including an ankle issue last offseason.
‘‘[At the] beginning of this season . . . I didn’t feel like I was really in shape,’’ he said. ‘‘With the whole pandemic situation going on, I thought it would be better for me to stay in Finland and play in a familiar place. Just trying to get back in the rhythm and find my game again.’’
Borgstrom is known as a talented offensive creator plagued by inconsistency and defensive flaws, but the Hawks are betting he finally will put it all together in the next two years.
‘‘It’s going to be important for him to be a solid two-way player so we can tap into the skill he has,’’ Bowman said. ‘‘We’re looking for him to come in and have a strong training camp and jump-start his career.’’
Soderblom, on the other hand, hasn’t been on the NHL radar before but earned his shot through impressive play.
In 2019-20, Soderblom ranked second in Sweden’s second-tier league with a .924 save percentage in 32 games. This season, he again ranked second — this time in Sweden’s top league — with a .922 save percentage in 24 games. The Hawks were in talks with him for the last several months, a source said.
Soderblom likely will be Rockford-bound next season and work his way up from there. For now, he’s the only goalie the Hawks have under contract for next season outside of the NHL trio of Lankinen, Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia.
Borgstrom is more likely to stick immediately in the NHL, but he’ll have far more competition to beat out first. The Hawks could have upward of 20 forwards in camp with realistic chances to make the roster.
Alex Nylander, who fits a similar profile to Borgstrom — a former high pick with great offensive ability and questionable defensive commitment who fizzled out with his original organization — is expected to be one of them. Bowman said Nylander is ‘‘really progressing nicely on his rehab’’ from knee surgery and should be ready to go by September.