Who is this guy?
Philip Samuelsson is a 6'2" 194lbs Defenseman from Leksand, Sweden who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2nd round of the 2009 NHL draft. His father is legendary Pens D Ulf Samuelsson, and Phil was born in Sweden during the summer after the first Stanley Cup victory. Despite being born in Sweden, Phil grew up in the US playing youth hockey for local teams wherever his father happened to live that season.
What are they saying about him?
Early reports were quick to compare Samuelsson to his father. He is a physical defensive defenseman that wears jersey #5, although in Pittsburgh where that number is not available he doubles it up to #55. But he has since established an image of his own. While he still plays a defensive role, he plays a positionally sound shutdown role focusing on excellent stick work rather than the brash physical style of his father. And while he does still have a physical edge, he lacks the mean streak and vicious demeanor that so Ulf so often headed to the penalty box. The Pens staff have called him a "Tough, physical defenseman excels in a shutdown role and on the penalty kill" and a "Defensive-minded blueliner plays with a physical edge and excels on the penalty kill." Prior to being drafted, his former USHL coach Steven R. Paopst said:
"Phil seems to find himself in the right position at all times. He has a very active and good stick that allows him to break up a lot of plays defensively and wins most of his one on one battles for the puck. He is a player that is poised and confident with puck while under pressure and can make the right decision in most of those situations. A lot of people will question his skating but he is so good at owning his space by making sure he is in the right position with a good stick it does not become a factor. Phil has been very consistent this season and has improved greatly in the USHL. He is a leader on this team and comes ready to compete everyday. He has a lot of upside and will continue to grow as a player."
He is most often praised for his excellent defensive stick work, breaking up passes and forcing turnovers. But his biggest critiques are his offensive abilities and his skating. Hockey's Future recently said of him "He is also an average skater who needs to get quicker and more explosive, particularly in his first step. He is effective at moving the puck out of his own zone, and has a hard shot from the point, but his offensive abilities are limited." Lastly we will look at an older scouting report from Faceoff Factor:
Dependable puck controller.. Excels on the penalty kill.. Can move the puck with crisp passing.. Good along the boards.. Good attitude.. Has potential to be a good NHL shut-down man.. has shown willingness to drop the gloves.. Raw but solid in his own end.. Won’t let anyone stand in/near his crease.. Needs to work on his shot in terms of strength and accuracy.. Although defensively minded it wouldn’t hurt to jump into the play more.. Needs to get his shots off quicker.. Needs to improve gap control.. Needs to become a stronger, faster skater
Has a decent shot from the point but will not jump into the play very often nor will he compromise his defensive positioning for a scoring chance. Passing could use some work as he tends to force things. Does not have the best hands. Samuelsson is positionally sound and physical along the boards. He uses his stick very well to tip passes, poke check opponents, and disrupt plays. Good shot blocker – he is adept at getting in the way of the offense. Very rarely caught out of position in the offensive zone or neutral zone. Physical player in the corner and along the boards but is not the intimidating player that his father was.
Where has he been?
Samuelsson was brought up playing for local teams in the US, including Midget hockey in Phoenix while his father worked for the Coyotes. At 17 he joined the USHL Chicago Steel and split time playing for the US National Development U18 team. He also got to play for Team USA in the World Junior U18, winning a Gold medal, and for Team Sweden U18 in international play. He then went on to play in the NCAA with Boston College after being drafted. During his 2 years with Boston College he got to play with fellow current and past Penguins prospects Brian Dumoulin, Brian Gibbons, and Carl Sneep, winning the Hockey East Championship both years and taking the NCAA title at the Frozen Four as a Freshman.
He dropped out of college early to turn pro, a decision many believe was a mistake. He began his career playing in the AHL for the WBS Baby Pens, but he struggled to adjust to the professional level and by the end of the season was being bounced back and forth between the ECHL Wheeling Nailers. However, he came back last season with something to prove. He started out the season fighting to earn a spot in the lockout logjam on the blue line, but worked his way up to be a Top 4 D by the end of the season. He led the entire team in Plus/Minus and was given a team award as Most Improved Player.
When can we expect to see him?
Samuelsson will be returning to WBS this season to be one of their Top 4 D, although he could see time in the NHL depending on whether or not they need any injury call-ups. This is the last year of his Entry Level contract, so it is a make of break year for him if he wants to stick with the Club. If he gets a new deal he will most likely find himself in the NHL next season as a #6/7 D, as he will no longer be waiver exempt.
Why is he #8?
Samuelsson received 1 vote for 3rd, 1 vote for 8th, 2 votes for 9th, 1 vote for 10th, 2 votes for 11th, 1 vote for 15th, and 1 vote for 17th.
How can he climb the list?
With all the blue chip D in the system and the fact that he is already in the Top 10, climbing the list seems unlikely. However, he can improve his chances of contributing in the NHL next year by having another excellent defensive season this year. He wore a C and an A at the Rookie Tournament earlier this month, so he might also be given a leadership role as one of the oldest and most experienced D in WBS this year. And obviously he could stand to improve upon his weaknesses. He needs to continue to improve his skating so that he can keep up with the pace of the NHL, and it wouldn't hurt to improve his play in the offensive zone if he ever wants to be more than a #6 D.