Arvid Soderblom’s bright future with Blackhawks coming quicker than expected
The goalie prospect 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 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 the season, and he might 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 start could happen soon, with Hawks backup goalie Kevin Lankinen sidelined by a broken bone in his hand.
Soderblom served as Marc-Andre Fleury’s backup on this past road trip, and although he was sent down Thursday (and replaced by Collin Delia) to play in one or both of Rockford’s 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, is predicated on his swift rise the last few years.
The undrafted goalie was off the radar until 2019-20, when he 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.
The Hawks signed him to a two-year entry-level contract last summer, and he has played in Rockford this season, posting a .914 save percentage in his first 12 appearances.
He has done so even while adjusting to North America’s smaller rinks. Soderblom 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, boxy, wide-shouldered frame fills most of the net and 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 expiring this summer, Soderblom might get more playing time. If Fleury gets traded by March, that timeline could accelerate. But for now, Soderblom is 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.”