For Soderberg, a world of difference

BOSTON -- It’s been exactly one year since Carl Soderberg signed with the Boston Bruins -- on April 8, 2013.

So much has changed since then.

The hype was overblown when Soderberg first arrived in Boston. He had spent his entire pro career playing in the Swedish Elite League. His production in Sweden was impressive and many thought it would translate to the North American game, even though he had never sniffed a game in the NHL.

The 6-foot-3, 198-pound forward averaged nearly a point a game in his final two seasons in the SEL, posting 45 goals and 50 assists for 95 points in 96 games. He led the league with 31 goals in 54 games last year before signing with the Bruins at the conclusion of that season.

Many wondered why he had spent so much time playing in Europe, even after the Bruins acquired him in a trade with the St. Louis Blues in exchange for goaltender Hannu Toivonen on July 23, 2007.

The hype diminished when he started playing games for the Bruins on April 20. He played a total of six regular-season games and registered only two assists and at times seemed lost on the smaller ice surface.

Once the puck dropped on the Stanley Cup playoffs, Soderberg watched from press level until his services were needed in the finals against the Chicago Blackhawks. Despite his limited NHL action, he was decent on hockey’s biggest stage and showed signs of why the Bruins liked his game so much.

After the Bruins lost to the Blackhawks, Soderberg set his goal to be prepared for training camp. Now knowing what to expect in the NHL and what the Bruins expect from him, he spent the summer training in order to become a full-time player for Boston.

He erased his struggles from a year ago and he’s become a valuable asset for the Bruins.

“When I came here one year ago I wanted to have a spot on this team, and that’s why I came here last season because I wanted to learn how the system works,” he said. “I think that did a lot for me to come last season. This season I’m more and more comfortable. I feel like I’m a part of this team now. This is way different from last year, for sure. It’s going to be awesome playing the next couple of weeks in the playoffs and see what we can do.”

Soderberg’s production on the Bruins’ third line, along with linemates Chris Kelly and Loui Eriksson, has allowed coach Claude Julien to use all four lines consistently.

“Carl is just a big guy with a lot of good stuff he can bring to the game,” Eriksson said. “It’s been good so far, so we just have to keep it going.”

Of late, Julien has tweaked his lines a bit but that’s only because he’s giving players rest before the playoffs begin. It’s a safe bet that third line will be intact once the puck drops on the postseason.

Overall, Soderberg has 16 goals and 30 assists for 46 points in 70 games this season, including a plus-6 rating. He began the season on the wing, but Julien thought it best to move Soderberg to center and it’s worked out well.

“It has, for sure,” Soderberg said. “When Loui and Kells came back from injury that helped me a lot, playing with those experienced guys. They’re great players and they’re helping me a lot.”

A year ago, both Julien and general manager Peter Chiarelli repeatedly said that once Soderberg learned the NHL game and the team’s systems, he would make an impact for the Bruins. Soderberg has proven them correct with his play this season and should be an important contributor as the Bruins attempt to reach the Stanley Cup finals for the third time in a four-year span.

“I thought I was in good shape when I came here last year,” he said with a smile. “I hadn’t played a game in six weeks before I came here and you need to play games. I wasn’t in the best [game] shape but this year I’m in good shape.”