Originally created 12/29/00

Soling disheartened



He was a pretty significant blip on the Vancouver Canucks' radar screen two years ago.

As an upstart 20-year-old player fresh out of junior hockey, he was named to the East Coast Hockey League all-star team, a fitting reward for a rookie off to a torrid start to his first season with the Augusta Lynx.

At that point, Jonas Soling had every right to expect a steady move up the Canucks organizational ladder, maybe even a chance to make the jump to the NHL.

But two years later, Soling's career with the Canucks is at a dead end, which leaves the 22-year-old winger contemplating his next move.

It's a move that likely doesn't include a fourth season in Augusta.

"I think I'm going back home," said the native of Sweden, who was drafted by the Canucks in the fourth round of the 1996 NHL Entry draft. "We'll see what happens the rest of this season. But if I don't get a new (NHL) contract, I'm probably going back to Sweden after this year and try to find somewhere to play over there."

Although a new contract for Soling, whether it be with the Canucks or another NHL club, isn't out of the question, the odds are against him.

Even though he is off to the best start of his career with a team-high 18 goals and 32 points in 31 games, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound forward is in the final year of a three-year deal with Vancouver, and the Canucks have given him no indication they plan to give him a serious look.

"I don't know what happened," said Soling, as the Lynx (13-15-3) return from the Christmas break to take on the Pee Dee Pride (16-13-1) on the road tonight before returning home to face the Pride again Saturday.

"They (Vancouver) never told me if they liked me or not, or said what their plans were for me," he said. "It's pretty strange. It's like they never really wanted to give me a chance to show them I could play at the next level."

Soling played sparingly in call-ups to the Canucks' former American Hockey League affiliate in Syracuse, N.Y., in each of the previous two seasons, tallying two goals and four points in 33 games combined. Twenty-nine of those games in Syracuse came in 1998-99.

Even then, he was used primarily in a checking-line role. After a brief stint in Vancouver's training camp in September, Soling was sent to Kansas City of the International League but was cut after a couple of days.

The Canucks then tried to send him to Fort Worth (Texas) in the Western Professional league, which is considered a step below the ECHL. Soling balked at the move, and the Lynx and his agent were able to negotiate his return to Augusta for a third season.

"If I was going to play anywhere besides(in Kansas City), I wanted to play in Augusta," Soling said. "This is a much better league than (the WPHL), and I really didn't want to go there. I feel comfortable playing in the Augusta, and I like the city and the people."

But not enough, apparently, to keep the disheartened Soling here past this season.

"What more can I do here?" Soling said. "If I was going to get an opportunity to play at the next level, I think it would have happened already. Maybe I'll get another (NHL) contract, but if I don't, I feel like it's time to go back to Sweden. I like it here, but that's my home."

Soling certainly has nothing to prove in the ECHL. As a rookie, he finished with 27 goals and 47 points in 50 games with the Lynx and drew high praise from scouts and former Los Angeles Kings coach Barry Melrose during the all-star game TV broadcast on ESPN2.

After a bit of a sophomore slump early last season, Soling came on strong down the stretch, finishing tied for fourth on the club in scoring with 22 goals and 31 assists for 53 points.

His big numbers again this season likely will earn him a spot on the Southern Conference squad for the ECHL all-star game in Little Rock, Ark., in February. Soling hopes the recognition will help his career, but he isn't holding his breath.

"It would be great to be named to the all-star team and if I can keep playing well, who knows what will happen," Soling said. "But there's lots of good players in this league and not too many (NHL) contracts. I don't know. We'll see, I guess."

Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425 or robm99@hotmail.com.