Victor Soderstrom wasn’t supposed to be on this Team Sweden roster at the 2020 World Juniors Championship.
Anyone you would have asked a month ago would have said that’d he’d be the odd man out when the Chicago Blackhawks eventually announce that prospect Adam Boqvist is being loaned to Team Sweden for the World Juniors.
However, the expected announcement never came for Team Sweden, and Soderstrom was able to stick on a bolstered defence core that is loaded with other first-round talents.
Blackhawks will not loan Adam Boqvist to Team Sweden for 2020 World Juniors. https://t.co/XgxN8Z12qn
Soderstrom has taken this opportunity and ran with it since being officially named to Sweden’s World Junior roster. The Arizona Coyotes first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft quickly rose up the ranks of the lineup, earning a spot alongside Rasmus Sandin on the top defensive pairing for the opening night of the tournament, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Soderstrom and Sandin have been the leaders in ice-time for Team Sweden throughout the World Juniors and have been utilized in all situations. With the young Soderstrom being tasked with quarterbacking the Swedes second-powerplay unit. Soderstrom’s unit has been one of the most successful at the tournament, and his playmaking abilities from the blue line have been a significant contributing factor to Sweden’s powerplay percentage of 44.83%, which leads all teams at the World Juniors through six games.
His on-ice success has translated to production on the scoresheet, as he sits in the top-5 of scoring among defencemen at the tournament with six points in six games at his first career World Juniors. He’s primarily been a set-up man for Sweden, with five of his points coming as assists, but he did add one nifty penalty-shot goal that put his puck skills on full display in front of the world stage.
Victor Soderstrom finishes on the penalty shot. 4-0 Sweden #WorldJuniors h/t @TSN_Sports https://t.co/vF1HFXvKhD
Soderstrom wasn’t actually the player who the penalty-shot infraction was called against. The World Juniors have a rule where the team can choose any player to take the shot, and Swedish Head Coach Tomas Monten elected to go with Soderstrom — selecting a defenceman over the realm of offensive weapons he has in his lineup, including two of the tournament’s leading scorers Samuel Fagemo and Nils Hoglander.
This decision speaks volumes to the puck skills Soderstrom displays both in games and practices, and his teammates have quickly taken notice, as stated by his Team Sweden teammate David Gustafsson:
David Gustafsson says Victor Soderstrom is the best penalty shot taker on the team so it makes sense he got the chance tonight. “It was sick,” Gustafsson said. “I’ve seen him do it in practice before.
Soderstrom will look to transition his success over to Brynas IF of the SHL when he rejoins the team after the conclusion of the tournament. He has already surpassed his offensive output from 2018/19 in the SHL in 30 fewer games this season (currently has 9 points in 15 games) and will look to blow those numbers out of the water by the year’s end. The trajectory of the 11th overall selection in the 2019 NHL Draft has him looking like a steal of a pick for GM John Chayka and the Arizona Coyotes, as Soderstrom is quickly rising to be one of the premier defensive prospects in the NHL.
It should be noted that Soderstrom is still eligible to return for Team Sweden at the 2021 World Juniors Championship in Edmonton, and it’s very likely the Coyotes prospect will come back as the Swedes number one defencemen.
The rise from assumed odd man out to emerging to one of the defensive stars of the tournament has truly made Victor Soderstrom one of the best stories at the 2020 World Junior Championships. He’ll now be relied upon as a key contributor as Team Sweden looks to earn a Bronze Medal in a matchup against bitter rival Team Finland after missing the podium entirely in 2019.
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Photo Credit- Tre Kronor (Twitter)