NHL scouting combine: Ulf Samuelsson's son has familiar traits
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TORONTO -- All it takes is a quick look at Henrik Samuelsson's face.
One glance at his chiseled features, and there's no question he is Ulf Samuelsson's son. If only because he's too young to be his twin.
But the genetic connection isn't limited to bone structure and hair color. Ulf Samuelsson's DNA shows up on his son's on-ice rap sheet, too.
Henrik Samuelsson, a rugged forward eligible for selection at the NHL entry draft June 22-23 at Consol Energy Center, spent the second half of the 2011-12 season playing for the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League.
Enough time to get a lot of attention from people who evaluate teenage hockey talent for a living.
And enough to get suspended four times for infractions that include a crosscheck to the face, a low hit, kneeing and charging.
Some who are familiar with Samuelsson's work contend he was punished too severely for at least one of those offenses. Still, he clearly doesn't just cross the line sometimes, but soars over it.
Kind of like his father -- a core member of the Penguins' Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1991 and '92 -- did during his days as the NHL's most-despised opponent.
And, much like this father, Samuelsson gets mixed reviews for his gritty, chippy, grating style of play.
There are those who see his knack for unnerving opposing players as one of Samuelsson's greatest assets. Others feel his lapses in composure and discipline are a major liability.
"That's something I need to work on, not stepping over the edge too much and not taking as many penalties," Samuelsson said Thursday. "I've gotten better at it as the season went along."
That doesn't mean there's a Lady Byng Trophy in his future. Samuelsson is most effective when there's an edge -- a hard edge -- to his game.
"I have to use my big body [6 feet 2, 192 pounds]," he said. Laughing, Samuelsson added, "Occasionally, I like to hack and whack people. I think it's a good part of my game."
No less an authority than his father agrees, although Ulf Samuelsson has cautioned against straying too far outside the rules.
"He doesn't want me to get suspended anymore," Samuelsson said. "But he knows I have to play with a chip on my shoulder. He played with a pretty big chip on his shoulder, too."
Samuelsson was born in Pittsburgh on Feb. 7, 1994, while his father still was drawing a paycheck from the Penguins, but moved on when Ulf joined the New York Rangers for the 1995-96 season.
He doesn't remember watching his father play -- "I was probably downstairs in the wives' lounge, playing mini-hockey" -- and eventually ended up in Phoenix, where his father was associate coach for five seasons.
Samuelsson said he has interviewed with "quite a few" teams, one of them being the Penguins, at the NHL's annual draft combine this week.
While there obviously is serious interest in him, there is no consensus on when he will be selected later this month.
Scouts who like his feisty, physical style -- and the skills set that complements it -- believe he could go late in the first round. Others think he could slip all the way to the Round 3, although it seems likely that some team will take a chance on him before that.
One Eastern Conference scout, who requested anonymity, said, "He may go in the second round if a team believes the skating will improve."
Samuelsson's skating consistently is cited as the softest spot in his game and appears to be the biggest hurdle he will have to clear before becoming a reliable contributor in the NHL.
There surely are no concerns about his size and willingness to compete, and he proved in his half-season with Edmonton that he can put up points. Samuelsson had seven goals and 16 assists in 28 regular-season games, then added four goals and 10 assists in 17 WHL playoff appearances.
"He has some potential to become a power forward," the Eastern scout said. "But his skating will have to improve [for him] to become that player."
Samuelsson spent a year in the U.S. national developmental program before joining MoDo in Sweden's Elitserien after Ulf was named coach there last year, then joined the Oil Kings in midseason.
"I went to Sweden for my family," he said, "then I went to Edmonton because my style of game is suited better to North America"
That seems to be in Henrik Samuelsson's DNA, too.
First Published June 1, 2012 12:00 am