Victor Söderström, Right Defenceman
5″11′, 176lbs, Brynäs IF (SHL)
Corey Pronman of The Athletic (Subscription required) #20
Small, Swedish, right shot defencemen, it seems we are seeing more and more of them drafted every year in the top 20, with previous guys like Adam Boqvist and Timothy Liljegren leading the way. Victor Söderström may be similar in size to these guys but he does play a bit of a different game.
From watching the tape on Söderström, something popped out to me in multiple games at the SHL level, and that was actually his defence, he plays bigger than 5-foot-11 and 176 pounds, and shows a Troy Stecher like drive in the defensive zone, using a low center of gravity and nifty stick work to get himself between the puck and his man in the corners.
Söderström does still exhibit quite a bit of skill when put in offensive situations, that shows with his recent introduction to Brynäs IF’s power play over the past couple of months after starting with their U-20 team. It took a few games for Söderström to get onto the power play but now that he is there he is showing that his cross ice passes are hard and on the tape. That is especially difficult at the SHL level, let’s not forget about the ice size difference in the SHL compared to a Major Junior leagues in Canada.
Speed and skill is very prevalent in Söderström’s game but comparing him to Adam Boqvist of last year’s draft, Söderström is a way better defender. That is shown in his ability to contribute to a SHL team in five on five play and also chipping in on the penalty kill. He has the ability to unleash accurate one-timers, and by accurate I mean on net, nothing really stuck out on his sniping ability but with smaller ice and more time to develop a stronger body that could come.
The number one reason that I think has Söderström showing up in everyone’s top 20 draft boards is his awareness, not really offensive or defensive specifically but his overall awareness on the ice. The thing that kept popping up when watching his film was how often he is scanning the ice, his head in constantly moving from side to side, watching where his teammates are and that head movement is synced up with his feet moving him into the right area on the ice.
I spoke with my Swedish scouting insider Jimmy Hamrin of McKeens Hockey and he was clear and simple when talking about what his thoughts were on Söderström.
"“Smart 2-way D. He can move his feet and the puck well and defend well. He has a good mind of whats going on and what going to happen. He’s elusive. Great passer. Can play both PK and PP. His shot could get better though. Unsure if he has elite NHL offensive skill from the point but a good bet for a top 4 maybe even top pair D.” Jimmy Hamrin, McKeensHockey.com"
He covers for his defensive partner when he pinches and knows when a backchecking forward is able to take the man, allowing him to be one step ahead of opposing players looking for rebounds. I was almost shocked on how much his eyes do the work for him while he was also able to rotate in the offensive zone to find the free area for an open point shot. His hockey IQ is very impressive and it stuck out to me more than anything else in his game, I think he is a very smart player and that is likely his biggest strength.
As for weaknesses, it was kind of hard to find many, he does at times move out-of-the-way of blocking shots but this was something I came to see very often in the Swedish Hockey League.
On a side note, this SHL was a hell of a lot of fun to watch games, the skill and speed is so much fun to follow and the big ice gives so much more room for these guys to rotate on the point with the puck. The forwards are very good at swapping places with defencemen when the blueliner want to pinch and get deep in the offensive zone.
Back to Söderström’s weaknesses, like I said before there wasn’t a lot. Söderström does take some soft penalties, plenty of them for tripping when the players are just escaping from him, that is likely to do with how active he is with his stick and could probably be cleaned up with some coaching when he jumps over to the North American game.
I think Canucks fans would be very happy to land a player of Söderström’s quality in this year’s draft. He plays bigger than he stands and is one of the rising prospects with what he has been doing lately in the SHL, getting more opportunity and showing that he can not only play with these men but be one of the better two-way defenceman in the SHL, all very impressive for a 17-year-old kid.
I was blown away from watching his games, there were two or three full SHL games where he did not make one mistake, this kid is legit.