Carl Soderberg’s Preseason Homework


Can we all take a moment to celebrate the passing of August into September, and with it the cease of hot days without hockey, and the slow crawl of news that surrounds such an awful time for those who love their hockey teams. *Sigh*… ahh that feels nice.

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Ok, moving on now. Carl Soderberg is one of the Colorado Avalanche’s new acquisitions, and as such, he has a lot to prove this year. Especially since he is slotted to take over the second-line center duties, previously owned by Ryan O’Reilly. Whether or not he actually ends up holding this responsibility throughout the season is up to Nathan MacKinnon, and his preseason homework.

For all intents and purposes with this post, however, we’re going to assume that Soderberg has every intention of holding this spot on the roster throughout the season. And, that he plans on proving that he is capable of doing so during training camp and the preseason (which I’m sure are both aspirations of his).

But, one must still take into account that Carl Soderberg has never played any minutes on a second line, so he surely has to prove that he is capable of producing at that level, and the pressure is on. In case you didn’t realize, he’s got some pretty big shoes to fill because O’Reilly is a damn good player.

Regardless of his aspirations, Carl Soderberg may only be suited for a high-end scoring third-line center, and it may prove that his skills would be hampered by the responsibility of a second-line role.

What Position is Best Suited to Carl Soderberg’s Skill Level?

I’ve already stated that Carl Soderberg is best suited to a third-line role, and would certainly bolster the Avalanche lineup tremendously if he were to take this role. However, if Nathan MacKinnon were ready (which he may prove he is during training camp) for the second-line center role, then he would not be anticipated to play on Soderberg’s right wing.

So, for the sake of this article, Soderberg’s spot in the lineup will be relegated to the second line, even though this may not be the best option.

Here’s Soderberg’s stats from last season, as taken from Sporting Charts. From the start, it is easy to tell that he definitely has offensive talent, but those point totals are certainly better suited to an — albeit dangerous — third-line role. However, it must be noted that for the majority of his two full seasons — and only NHL experience — with the Bruins, Soderberg’s linemates were Loui Eriksson and Chris Kelly.

On a side note, it’s interesting to think that both Carl Soderberg and Nathan MacKinnon will be going into their third NHL season, yet one is only 20 (MacKinnon) and the other will turn 30 this season.

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Ok, I digress, we were discussing Soderberg’s linemates. Well, it’s pretty safe to say that MacKinnon and Gabe Landeskog will certainly be upgrades on his past linemates. They may even be enough of an upgrade to catapult Soderberg into the 55-60 point range, but that is certainly the best-case scenario.

Or is it? With linemates like MacKinnon and Landeskog, Soderberg has the privilege of playing with essentially the best forwards on our team (possession-wise), and he sports a relatively well progressed two-way game that should only bolster their stats. So, it is certainly possible for Soderberg to have a career year this year, because he has the opportunity to play with some really high-caliber players.

Nonetheless, if he really wants to take his game to the next level, there are some things he could stand to work on coming into training camp, and especially during the preseason.

What Can Carl Soderberg Improve?

There is one thing that stands out as a glaring issue for a second-line center when looking at Carl Soderberg’s stats from last season, and that is his face-off percentage. It’s really not that bad for a third-line center, but could even use improvement if that were indeed his role on the team. However, it’s pretty dismal for a second-line center, and if he truly wants to solidify his spot as the second-line center, then he needs to improve his face-off percentage to at least a 50 percent clip.

For example, Nathan MacKinnon’s face-off percentage last year was only 47 percent, and Soderberg’s was 48 percent. So, there really isn’t that much difference between the two. Carl Soderberg holds the advantage for the center role, because his defensive game is more progressed than MacKinnon’s.

Related: Preseason Homework for Nikita Zadorov

Regardless of whether or not he plays as the second-line center, Soderberg will definitely be featured in top-six minutes this season, because there are really no other viable options to fulfill the vacancy that O’Reilly left behind. With the prospects coming up in the system, and MacKinnon’s continued development, it is very likely that Carl Soderberg will be on the third line next year, but for now his services are required in the top six.

With top-six minutes comes a lot of responsibility, and Carl Soderberg is ready to shoulder this responsibility. he certainly knows how to set-up his teammates, with 31 assists last season, but his goal total could use an increase into the 20-goal range (13 last season). Playing on a line with teammates Landeskog and MacKinnon should certainly help him increase his point total, which will be necessary if he truly wants to prove he is top-six caliber.

But, like I said earlier, he needs to improve his face-off percentage, if he really wants to make an impact in the top six. Regardless of next year’s outcome, Soderberg should be a great addition for the team down the line, especially as MacKinnon starts to transition into the second-line center role.

Most Likely Scenario

As stated previously, Carl Soderberg must play in the top six this year, and the only thing that might change that is if Mikko Rantanen proves ready to tackle his preseason homework. If Rantanen does indeed crack the lineup during the preseason, it will be because he is ready to play in the top six.

It’s impossible to tell who would get slotted down to the third line if this does occur, but Soderberg is my pick for that scenario.

Ultimately, Rantanen would probably need another year to develop before he is ready to make an impact in the NHL. So, unless MacKinnon proves he is ready for the second-line center role, and someone else exceeds expectations (Mikhail Grigorenko), then the most likely scenario is that Carl Soderberg will be centering the second line, at least when the season starts.

No matter what happens, the Avalanche management made a great signing in Soderberg, as MacKinnon should be ready to center the second line sooner rather than later, and Rantanen should join the team next year. With these two players ready to take on more extensive roles on the roster, Soderberg should see a “demotion” to the third line, but honestly, it would be using his skills much more effectively.

Do you think that Soderberg is ready to take on the second-line center role? If so, how do you think he will fair next year with MacKinnon and Landeskog as his linemates? Let us know in the comments! 

Next: Preseason Homework for Nathan MacKinnon

Next: Avalanche Player Profile: Carl Soderberg

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