It sounds like the Coyotes really, really wanted Victor Soderstrom.
In the first round of the NHL Draft on Friday night, the Arizona Coyotes traded the 14th pick and the 45th pick (second round) for Philadelphia’s 11th pick, which the team used to select the Swedish right-handed defenseman Soderstrom.
Coyotes general manager John Chayka said the team had Soderstrom ranked third overall on their board. He didn’t have much to say when asked what areas of Soderstrom’s game could use improvement.
“It’s a really good question. Because like I said, there’s not many holes in his game,” Chayka said. “Not a lot of downside and unlimited upside.”
As the draft went on and the Coyotes’ pick approached, forward Cole Caufield was still on the board — a player some called the best scorer in the draft (which happens to be an area of need for Arizona). Chayka and the Coyotes knew there was a player still available that they highly coveted, but it wasn’t Caufield they had in mind.
“We weren’t leaving the draft without him,” Chayka told reporters at the draft. “We were going to do whatever it took to get up and get [Soderstrom].”
Chayka said that he did like the forward group that was there at the top of the draft, but that they “couldn’t not” take Soderstrom. He had already said earlier in the week that the draft is a place where you can attain an asset that you can’t trade for, and in taking Soderstrom, the Coyotes feel that they did just that.
“We got a core player for a long time,” Chayka said. “It’s almost like the list of shorter if you ask why not take him, because you have every reason to take him. He’s a right-shot defenseman, he’s playing against men, excelling against men, he’s a great person, great leader, great character, great physicality. He checks all of our boxes.
“It was a very thorough process this year, and there was not a single thing that we came across where we felt like there was a deficiency. Feel like he’s close to playing, very high value, we had him ranked third overall on our list. So, thrilled to get him.”
Soderstrom was lauded by Chayka and others for his hockey sense, puck-moving ability, physicality and stick.
“I would say I’m a two-way D with offensive upside, good hockey sense, good hockey IQ, good skating, good skill,” Soderstrom said when he joined The Rundown with Luke Lapinski on Friday after being drafted.
It’s easy to make the comparison to other Swedish defensemen, but it’s also probably a fair comparison. From Nicklas Lidstrom to Erik Karlsson to John Klingberg — oh, and current Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson — there is plenty history of great Swedish, puck-moving skilled blueliners.
“We had a lot of great defensemen after [Lidstrom] and I think he kind of set the tone of everything,” Soderstrom said. “All our Ds, we watch him a lot and we watch Erik Karlsson, Ekman-Larsson, John Klingberg a lot as well and try to take the best parts out of their game and put it into ours.”
If Chayka and the Coyotes got a player that ends up being like those guys, they can go ahead and trade for a forward later and be totally okay with that.