It is good to see goalie Linus Soderstrom back on the ice for the New York Islanders Development Camp this week.
Soderstrom, the Islanders' 2014 fourth-round pick (95th overall), missed the entire 2018-19 season with an undisclosed mid-to-lower body. It cost him a chance to play his first season in North America with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, as well as a year of development, key for a 22-year-old.
It's been tough rehabbing instead of playing, but Soderstrom's NHL aspirations have kept the goalie motivated to keep training hard and work his way back to North America, a dream that he was on the cusp of before injuries took hold.
"Playing here is something you dream of. There is a lot of hard work that goes into this." Soderstrom said. "If I stop working, there's not a chance in the world that I'm going to make [the NHL]. If keep working then I still have a shot."
What Soderstrom is working towards is recapturing the play that made him one of the organization's top prospects. In 2016-17, Soderstrom went 15-3-4 during the Swedish Hockey League's regular season with a league-leading 1.34 GAA, a .943 SV% and six shutouts. He won 12 more games in the playoffs, helping HV71 win their fifth Swedish championship.
That was the high point, but injuries derailed much of his next two seasons. In 2017-18 Soderstrom missed a stretch from mid-November to early March. He spent part of his recovery in New York, attending Islanders games and getting acclimated with the staff and facilities on Long Island. He played two games at the end of the 2017-18 season for HV71.
The next injury, the one that's kept Soderstrom sidelined all year, came during an offseason workout. So instead of heading to Bridgeport for his first North American season, Soderstrom spent the year rehabbing in Sweden, a gesture he appreciated under the frustrating circumstances.
"I have to give credit to the Islanders. We had an honest talk and really talked in depth about this. We made a decision that's best for me," Soderstrom said. "I worked on a lot of my weaknesses and it's getting a lot better. Right now, it's just all about continuing that process and getting healthy to be on the ice."
Soderstrom said he was in regular communication with the Islanders during the season and they took things month to month. He returned to the ice in February but he hasn't seen any game action since March 8, 2018.
So it's been a frustrating year for Soderstrom, who felt like he was getting closer to his NHL aspirations before suffering a series of setbacks.
"In Sweden, we won the championship there and I really felt good about my game and I felt very confident," Soderstrom said. "The season after I played five games and after that I started getting my injury symptoms and the rest is history."
Soderstrom is happy to be on the ice and stopping pucks against the Islanders top prospects, as well as working with the organization's coaches. He suited up for Thursday's Blue and White Scrimmage, his first "game" action in 18 months and admitted to having some nerves, but in a good way. For what it's worth, his team won 3-1 in the 20-minute, four-on-four contest, with Soderstrom lunging across his net to take away a cross-ice feed from Kieffer Bellows to Mason Jobst.
The skates this week at development camp have been more intense than some of Soderstrom's sessions back in Sweden, but that's a good thing for the goalie who is hoping to be able to play in North America this season.
"You just have to feel playing again," Soderstrom again. "I want to make sure my body feels well. Here, it's very intense with hard skates. [I'm] just focusing on getting out there and trying to make the most of [camp]."
"Right now it's just all about doing that, getting healthy and being on the ice."