Welcome to our annual 31-in-31 Summer Series here at DobberProspects! Every day in July we will be bringing you a complete breakdown of a team’s draft, notes from their development camp, and insights into their off-season moves so far. Following this up, the August 31-in-31 Series will dive into every team’s prospect depth charts with fantasy insights and implications for the upcoming seasons. Check in often, because we plan on filling your hockey withdrawal needs all summer long!
Ever since John Chayka became General Manager for the Coyotes in 2016, he’s selected a relatively unexpected player in the first round. Clayton Keller in his first draft as the big man, PO Joseph in 2017, and then Barrett Hayton last year, Chayka has been nothing short of unpredictable. He didn’t let us down this year either, trading the 14th overall selection and the team’s second-round pick (45th overall) to Philadelphia to slide up three spots to pick No. 11. It only seemed logical Chayka would fill an organizational need and select a top-end scorer (Mathew Boldy, Peyton Krebs and probably the best pure goal scorer in this year’s draft, Cole Caufield were all still available) but Chayka went in another direction and selected Swedish defenseman Victor Soderstrom. Much like last years draft where the Coyotes selected Hayton over Filip Zadina, this year’s selection will have fans questioning what Chayka was thinking for at least a few years till we get a better grip on how these picks ultimately pan out.
1st round, 11th overall: Victor Soderstrom, D
The Coyotes were convinced that Florida was trying to move up to draft Soderstrom, so they did what they had to do to get a player both Chayka and scouting director Lindsay Hofford believe was one of the best available. Every general manager in pretty much every sport will tell you how they had their first-round pick rated highly. It’s one of those time-honored clichés we never get tired of hearing but the Coyotes willingness to give up a second-round pick supports that notion. “We saw him throughout the whole year- I don’t know how many viewings, but hundreds of viewings,” Hofford said shorty after making the selection. “Right across the board, he was a five-star guy for us so it was a no-brainer. We liked every aspect of his game and every aspect of his character.”
Soderstrom began the season in junior but worked his way up to the SHL level, logging significant minutes and getting power-play time as a 17-year-old in a men’s league. A smooth skater, he transitions the puck up the ice quickly and is considered an elite puck mover. He’s a very intelligent player who reads the play very well. Despite not being very big (6ft, 183lbs) he’s a good defender. Soderstrom closes gaps very well due to his IQ, using his body and stick to break up pucks, and makes a lot of stops. Scouts wonder if he has a dynamic side but the Coyotes believe Soderstrom was brought along slowly because he was so young and were impressed by his mature and complete game.
Fantasy wise it’s hard right now to say what kind of impact Soderstrom will have. Looking at his stats from last season, four goals and seven points in 44 games, and it’s hard to see a elite point producing defenseman. At the same time though his team was not good and he was very young in a men’s league. Reading Scott Wheeler of The Athletic assessment of this pick, he wasn’t very high on it, believing Soderstrom projects as a second-pairing defenseman who might be able to help out on a second power-play. He’s close to being NHL ready though and while Soderstrom is signed for another season in the SHL he could play this upcoming campaign in the AHL and should suit up for Sweden at the 2020 WJC.
Chayka also tends to trade higher picks for more selections in the later rounds. He kept that trend up this year trading pick 74 to Pittsburgh for 98, 151 and 207. I guess it’s a quantity over quality type thing, but I don’t totally get it.