In the lead up to training camp and the regular season, the staff at Eyes on Isles have compiled the top 25 players, under 25 years-old in the New York Islanders system.
Coming in at number 25 is Linus Soderstrom. The 20-year-old Swedish goaltender came to the New York Islanders by way of the fourth round in the 2014 NHL Draft.
Soderstrom continues the trend of the ever growing goaltender. Measuring 6’4” and weighs about 195lbs. Twenty-years ago goalies averaged 5’11”, but now they tower to heights of 6’7” like Tampa Bay Lightning’s Ben Bishop.
These tall goalies don’t just stand there trying to cover the most amount of real estate as possible, although that does sum up what a goalie’s job is pretty nicely. These goalies are incredibly athletic, able to maneuver around in the butterfly position with ease, effectively shutting down the bottom foot of the net.
Just look at this highlight from Soderstromin the 2015 World Juniors, where his Team Sweden took on Team Russia. Just watch how he covers the bottom portion of the net, forcing the Russian forward to beat him blocker side (and it almost works if not for Soderstoms quick reflexes).
What Soderstrom Brings
Mix size, athletic, and quick reflexes and you’ve got a potent puck-stopping machine. So why then does Soderstrom rank so low?
Well, to be honest, scouting goaltenders is far from perfect. No one really knows how to effectively assess talent in the crease. We’ve got to factor in the fact that goaltenders have a huge question mark over their heads.
Generally, the best cure for scouting woes is sample size. With enough experience, it’s possible to properly assess what this kid might be in 5-10 years from now. But as it stands Soderstrom is playing in the 2nd tier of the Swedish league on loan to club HC Vita from his parent club Djurgarden.
He’s played well, posting 1.86 GAA and .927 SV% in 17 games played last season. But the level of opposition is much lower than that of even the 1st division of the Swedish Hockey League.
At this point, Soderstrom’s biggest alibi for those ranking him higher is his masterful performance against a strong USA team in the Juniors last winter. Soderstrom stopped 46 shots as he shut out a talent-laden Team USA led by no.1 overall pick Auston Matthews.
But a single tournament, let alone a single game in a single tournament is no way foreshadowing to a career.
Soderstrom is a good goaltender. Is he NHL ready? Nope. Could he be? Maybe in a few years. The kids got the talent, he just needs the experience and a deeper sample size. Soderstrom’s Aspergers has made his road to a career in hockey significantly more challenging than most.
A challenge that Soderstrom has clearly mastered. He’s got the talent and the resolve to make it. The kid has a bright future. Seeing play more against quality opposition would go a long way to move him up this ranking.