Arvid Soderblom, Filip Roos thankful to have each other on Blackhawks

On many days after practice, after taking off his gear and fulfilling any interview requests, Blackhawks defenseman Filip Roos leaves his stall and meanders over to the goaltenders’ side of the locker room.

There, Roos and Hawks goalie Arvid Soderblom smile and talk — mostly in Swedish — about whatever comes to mind.

“It’s always nice having a Swede you know here,” Roos said.

Soderblom is more than just a fellow countryman to Roos, however. The two of them were born eight months apart and grew up just 20 minutes away from each other in Gothenburg, the second-largest city in Sweden and the largest on its southwest coast (across the sea from Denmark).

They played against each other regularly growing up in Gothenburg’s youth hockey leagues, then became teammates for the first time as late teenagers in the junior academy of Frolunda, Gothenburg’s pro team.

In 2017-18 on Frolunda’s under-20 team, Roos tallied 12 points in 43 games while Soderblom went 15-14-0 with a .905 save percentage in 29 games.

Then in 2018-18, Roos and Soderblom both made their big-league Frolunda debuts — but played only one game each — and spent most of their time on loan to Hanhals, a third-division semi-pro team located about 20 miles south of Gothenburg. Roos recorded 11 points in 24 games while Soderblom went 18-19-0 with a .908 save percentage in 37 games.

Their paths diverged after that, but they coincidentally both ended up experiencing career breakthroughs after landing in Skelleftea — a top-flight team in northeast Sweden. Those breakthroughs earned them NHL attention and, ultimately, contracts with the Hawks. The only difference was Soderblom did so in 2020-21 while Roos did so in 2021-22.

When Roos was weighing the Hawks’ offer last spring, he and Soderblom reconnected. Soderblom later helped Roos, while training together during the latter half of the summer, prepare to move to Chicago. They’re now close friends again.

“It’s pretty cool we’re here now together, four years later,” Soderblom said. “It has been a fun journey for both of us, ending up here in the same place.”

Soderblom was the lone Swede last season in Rockford, a city not exactly known for its diversity. Swedish defenseman Erik Gustafsson was a fixture on the Hawks’ NHL roster at the time, but their paths crossed only briefly. At times, it was lonely.

The 2022-23 Hawks also have one of the NHL’s smallest European contingents, one comprised of only four players: Roos, Soderblom, Swiss forward Philipp Kurashev and Czech goalie Petr Mrazek. So coach Luke Richardson, despite being Canadian, appreciates the value Roos and Soderblom’s presences provide each other.

“We have a close team with a lot of new guys, and they’ve really gelled together,” Richardson said. “It’s always nice to have someone from where you’re from, no matter if you’re from Europe, Canada, the U.S. or wherever. It’s nice to have someone from your corner that you can talk a little bit of ‘home shop’ with.”

Roos has rotated in and out of the Hawks’ third defensive pairing so far, tallying three points in 10 games. Soderblom’s red-hot start to the season has cooled lately; he now sits at 2-4-1 with a .909 save percentage.

They’re there for each other through the good and bad nights alike, though, and hang out frequently away from the rink. Soderblom has served as Roos’ Chicago tour guide and restaurant recommendation-giver; he even helped Roos set up his U.S. phone number.

And when they’re especially missing home, they’ve learned to love visits to IKEA — in order to buy both furniture and meatballs.

“We’re pretty similar, laid-back, chill guys,” Soderblom said. “He likes to have fun and take it easy. He’s a great guy to have around, and it’s fun to have him here now.”

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