One of the more clearly defined observations from Bruins training camp: Carl Soderberg looks a lot closer to the player that B’s management lusted after for seven years before finally signing him.
The 27-year-old Big Swede took some of the harsh lessons from being dropped into a playoff team in the middle of an NHL season, and used them to fuel his summer workout program. Soderberg lost close to ten pounds, but also packed on some lean muscle at the same time to withstand the battles in the NHL trenches.
He also appears much more at home with the Bruins after last year’s orientation, and has fellow Swedes like Loui Eriksson, Alex Fallstrom and Niklas Svedberg to bond with during the dog days of camp.
Last year Soderberg was routinely blown off the puck in 1-on-1 battles and had difficulty using his size to good advantage, but the Swedish pivot has been a changed man during training camp. He’s winning battles for the puck, seems much more able to protect the puck on his stick and isn’t shying away from the rough stuff that bedeviled him last spring.
“He’s looking good. He’s lost weight, but he’s gained some muscle,” said Claude Julien. “He was already a strong player to start with, but when we’ve seen him in those battle drills he’s been really strong on the puck. We like that about him.
“He’s got good skill level, he can shoot the puck and make plays. He’ll get a great opportunity in those preseason games to showcase those skills, and show the improvement.”
The Bruins already thought well enough of Soderberg to insert him into the B’s lineup during the Stanley Cup Final when the injury bug hit. He fared much better in postseason play than he did during six games at the end of the regular season when managed a pair of assists and a minus-2 rating.
Now Soderberg is in prime position to win one of the open third line spots with incumbent center Chris Kelly, and that leaves the B’s coaching staff with a bit of a conundrum. Both Soderberg and Kelly are natural centers, and one will be playing out of position if they’re both third line material to start the year.
“He came in late and he didn’t play many games last season. So hopefully the preseason games will hopefully give us a better idea [about him],” said Julien. “One of the tough decisions is Kelly on the third line being a center, and [Soderberg] being a center. One of those guys may end up playing the wing if that’s the case. We may have to decide which one is the better scenario when we get down the road.”
The Bruins coaching staff will also have to decide on a third linemate to potentially join Kelly and Soderberg. Jordan Caron and Reilly Smith are skating with Kelly during the training camp sessions, and the former B’s first round pick is clearly getting heavy consideration.
Much will depend on the way things look with the players in question during the preseason games – which start Monday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal – and Soderberg is among the many players looking to show off what a summer of work has done for him.