A few days ago when this year’s rookie camp started, the Washington Capitals’ 117th pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Norwegian goalie Steffen Søberg, was suddenly missing from the roster. The club released a statement that said that Søberg wouldn’t attend camp this year. They said that he needed time to decide if he would play the upcoming season in Europe or in North America.
Steffen Søberg was picked by the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League in the CHL’s import draft and attended a training camp with the WHL team earlier in the summer. The Broncos’ coach and general manager Mark Lamb said in an interview a couple of days ago that Søberg had some personal problems to deal with back home, but they expected him to return to the team as soon as his problems were resolved. Lamb also said that Steffen Søberg can’t play anywhere else because his rights belong to the Broncos this season.
Today Søberg gave an interview to the Norwegian news paper Dagbladet.no in which he addressed Lamb’s comments.
“My personal problems are very overblown. My only reason for going home is that I don’t want to be there. I have told them from the beginning that I don’t want to be there. I’m not depressed or anything like that, I just don’t want to be there.”
It sounds like the Broncos coach expects you to come back?
“Yeah, maybe he is hoping for that, but deep down inside I think he knows that I’m not coming back. I just don’t feel like I’m ready to move that far away on my own just yet.”
Søberg has asked the club to release him from his contract so that he can start playing for another team. In the meantime he is training with his old club Manglerud Star in Norway.
You are not afraid that this will burn all your bridges to the NHL?
”It won’t ruin anything for me. They have told me that they don’t view me as a bad prospect if I choose to play outside of North America, but they would have preferred that I play in North America. I’m not at all ruling out that I will play over there sometime in the future, but right now I just don’t want to be there. I think it’s better that someone that really does want to be there gets my spot instead.”
A timeline of The Steffen Søberg situation
May 5, 2011: Søberg talked to the Norwegian paper Nettavisen.no about the possibility of being drafted by the NHL. Steffen said that there is a possibility that he will get drafted but that is not something that he takes for granted. Because of an incredible performance at the U-18 World Championship in Germany, several Canadian junior teams have started to become interested in picking Søberg in the import draft. “I think it’s a bit far to move all the way to Canada. I’m going to think about for a bit but I think I will stay in Europe,” said Søberg. He also talked about his need to train with a real goalie coach which is something that his Norwegian team doesn’t have.
June 11, 2011: Hockeysverige.se reports that Swedish Elite League champion Färjestad are interested in recruiting the Norwegian goalie for their newly formed junior team.
June 12, 2011: In yet another interview with Nettavisen.no, Søberg confirms that Färjestad has showed interest in him and that he is very excited about the possibility to work with renowned goalie coach Erik Granqvist. Granqvist has worked with goalies such as Henrik Nilsson (Calgary Flames), Alexander Salák (Chicago Blackhawks), and Jonas Gustavsson (Toronto Maple Leafs ). “They want me to be the number one goalie on their J20-team and as third goalie for the big club. I can’t imagine anything better than to train with Färjestad’s SEL team. I always had to train myself so to speak. I have participated in goaltender camps but only once a year. I think that a goalie coach will help me improve my game a lot. I think a coach that is specialized on goalies will help me a lot, not just with the technical aspects of my games but with the mental aspect as well. Just to have someone to talk to after a game that knows what it’s all about would be huge for me.”
June 25, 2011: The Washington Capitals picked Søberg in the fourth round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Right after the draft Capitals goalie coach Dave Prior says that they would prefer Søberg to play in North America.
June 29, 2011 The Swift Current Broncos picked Søberg number six in the CHL import draft.
July 15, 2011: At the Capitals development camp, Søberg talked about playing overseas:
“That was something that Washington wanted me to do. I also had some offers from Sweden and stuff that would’ve been easier for me, not moving that far away,” he said. “But I think it’s gonna be great. Dave Prior [says] that’s the best place to develop as a goalie, so I trust that,” Søberg told the Washington Times.
So what to make of this?
If you are a representative or a fan of the Swift Current Broncos, you have a good reason to feel very disappointed in this situation. The team wasted a high draft pick on a player that at the time of the draft seemed committed to coming over, but it is clear now that that is not the case. It is of course impossible to say at this time how much the loss of Søberg will hurt the team. Also unknown as of now is if the Broncos will play hard ball and prevent Søberg from suiting up for another team or if they will release him from his obligations.
From a Washington Capitals perspective on the other hand, I see no reason to be overly worried about this situation. It’s unfortunate that Søberg didn’t make up his mind earlier though so the Broncos didn’t waste a pick on him. Looking at this from the outside, it sounds like he wanted to play for Färjestad all along, but that opportunity is most likely not available any longer since Färjestad picked up Swiss goalie Luca Boltshauser to fill that position. With the hockey season already started in a lot of European countries, it could be difficult for Søberg to find a opening. But I think that he is viewed as being interesting and promising enough for some team to take him on even if most teams already are set.