Second City Hockey’s 2022-23 preseason Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25 series ranks the organization’s top 25 players under the age of 25 by Oct. 1, 2022. The rankings are determined by a composite score from all four SCH writers. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. All four ballots will be released after the series is completed.
After going undrafted, Arvid Soderblom signed with the Chicago Blackhawks in May 2021, during the early stages of the offseason. Due to COVID issues for a few other Chicago goaltenders, Soderblom made his NHL debut on Jan. 1, 2022, tallying 15 saves on 18 shots during a 6-3 loss to the Nashville Predators.
Soderblom’s season is not defined by those three initial NHL games behind one of the worst teams in the NHL, however. Instead, look to his stats from a larger sample size in the AHL, played behind a younger defense packed with potential long-term Blackhawks moreso than the current blue line.
Soderblom, in his first season on North American ice, had two shutouts, a .919 save percentage and was easily the best goaltender on the IceHogs’ roster. No one else, including AHL veteran Collin Delia, had a save percentage above .905.
Soderblom showed that he’s clearly capable, just maybe not yet at the NHL level, at least behind the Blackhawks. This is a year after Soderblom posted a .922 save percentage — second-best in the SHL in the regular season — and a .951 save percentage in two playoff games.
Soderblom put up a .925 save percentage in five playoff games with Rockford, continuing a trend of his — which has now occurred in three straight seasons — where he improves in the postseason over the regular season. You know what a contending team needs from its goaltender? Improvement in the postseason.
If they’re going to contend again anytime soon, the Blackhawks will need either Soderblom or Drew Commesso to turn into a real starting goaltender. It may be too much to ask of either goaltender to turn into Andrei Vasilevskiy, but you know who just won the Cup? Darcy Kuemper. That’s a reasonable goal. If both turn into starters, well, that’s even better in the era of resting goaltenders.
Soderblom, of the two netminding prospects, is currently the more NHL-ready and is already performing admirably at the professional level. Soderblom can work on a few aspects of his game, but for a 23-year-old goaltender, he’s not that rough. In fact, if one of the goaltenders on the Blackhawks’ roster currently gets hurt or is eventually traded, finding Soderblom on the roster later this season wouldn’t be surprising.
There’s a reason that Soderblom was the one left standing after the mass exodus of goaltending this offseason from the Blackhawks. Three of the four goaltenders in the Blackhawks’ system are brand new, including Soderblom’s new backup in Rockford, Jaxson Stauber.
Soderblom is able to read plays well, can move laterally and continues to improve at reading the puck. While Soderblom’s three NHL games left some room to be desired — a .783 high-danger save percentage is not great — he continues to look more and more like he has true potential.
At 6-3, Soderblom is also large enough for the current NHL goaltending game and has good flexibility. He’s also improved his rebound control in recent years — a thing Blackhawks goaltenders have struggled with recently — and that .919 AHL save percentage proved he adapted well to smaller rinks, a key target for last season.
The Blackhawks need a goaltender after this season. While Petr Mrazek and Alex Stalock will help the tank, they’re not long-term solutions in the Blackhawks’ net. The chance that Soderblom is a long-term fix grew over the past season. Now he just needs to build on that initial success. A battle for the starter’s net (hopefully) looms.
Marco Rossi is in full on pest mode tonight. Wins the puck behind Rockford's net and tries to slam it home. Takes an extra poke and Arvid Soderblom gives him a chop to the back of the legs. No penalties called on the play #mnwild pic.twitter.com/6tI7x1yGhT— Spoked Z (@SpokedZ) April 24, 2022
Soderblom is clearly viewed by the Blackhawks as part of the long-term goaltending plans for now, and that’s with good reason: Soderblom was co-MVP for the playoff-making IceHogs his rookie season.
Soderblom will continue to be the favorite for the starter’s net in Rockford and will be the Blackhawks’ third goaltender this season behind Mrazek and Stalock. If one of them overperforms — thus necessitating a trade — Soderblom may get a longer-term call-up. Hopefully, he can prove that three-game rough patch last season was just that — a patch on an emerald lawn.