Penguins: Samuelsson comparison unavoidable
The Penguins selected defenseman Philip Samuelsson, the son of former defenseman Ulf Samuelsson, in the second round of the 2009 draft.
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There will be no way of avoiding comparisons for Penguins prospect Philip Samuelsson, who is attending the club's development camp this week at Consol Energy Center.
The 6-foot-2, 198-pounder is wearing No. 5, just like his dad. And he's a defenseman, just like his dad.
Well, maybe not just like his dad.
Philip might be a more polished puck mover than Ulf Samuelsson, the uber-popular Penguins hit machine who played 277 games here and won the Stanley Cup in 1991 and '92.
"I was thinking more of the same thing, too, but I was watching some of his game tapes recently, and I think we're pretty spot on, pretty similar style defensemen," Philip said.
Yeah, but surely Philip doesn't play with the snarl that Ulf did.
"I think I do have a mean streak in me," said Philip, who will be able to tap into that more as a pro.
"There's more fighting and hitting here," he said. "We'll see if that part of my game develops the way I want it to."
Philip Samuelsson was drafted by the Penguins in the second round in 2009 and turned pro in the spring after his sophomore season at Boston College, where he won an NCAA title as a freshman. He had five goals and 30 points in 81 games, with 108 penalty minutes, in his college career.
He is young for his class -- he turns 20 later this month -- and is part of an organization saturated with proven and promising defensemen.
"I'd like to get here as quick as I can, but I'm in no rush. I know they have a great defensive corps," said Samuelsson, who spent the previous two summers in Sweden and is learning the Penguins systems at his first development camp.
Anything is possible given the right performance at training camp, but the way the numbers stack up, Samuelsson might have to claw and impress to be a top-four defenseman with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League this season.
The Penguins have seven returning defensemen under contract, and 2009 first-round draft pick Simon Despres is knocking at the door. Wilkes-Barre has returning defensemen such as Brian Strait, Robert Bortuzzo and Carl Sneep -- Sameulsson's Boston College teammate on the 2010 NCAA championship team.
"He knows we're a very rich organization on [defense], from the defensemen we have up here and trickling down through Wilkes-Barre, and as you saw last draft [in June], our first two picks were defensemen," said assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald. "You can never have enough good defensemen. He knows what the competition is like."
Fitzgerald played against the elder Samuelsson in the NHL over many seasons. He doesn't buy the father-son comparison.
"He's not Ulf," Fitzgerald said of Philip. "He can play with the edge, but he's not Ulf.
"He's more of a detailed guy, uses his stick really well, and he's smart. His skating needs to continue to improve. He's a bright player, a good puck-moving guy. He can play your second power play. He gets pucks to the net. He basically is a guy, you can rely on him in any situation."
Philip was born weeks after the '91 Cup celebration and remembers just "bits and pieces" of being a small boy in Pittsburgh, playing street hockey in the neighborhood and watching Ulf. His appreciation of his father's game grew when he saw clips in later years.
"It's certainly different now that I understand the sport a little bit better," he said. "How he was and what I thought is totally different -- obviously, much better."
Samuelsson grew to relate to another defenseman while living in Phoenix, where Ulf spent several seasons as associate coach before accepting the job of head coach of MODO in the Swedish Elite League starting this fall.
"Zbynek Michalek is one of the best defensemen in the league, and that's not saying anything bad about their other defensemen," Philip Samuelsson said. "I'm looking forward to meeting them and one day playing with them."
Michalek was in Phoenix with Samuelsson before signing with the Penguins as a free agent last summer.
"I saw him a lot in Phoenix, and I love the way he plays," Samuelsson said. "That's someone I kind of want to mold my game after, being a shutdown defenseman who likes to block shots. He's great at taking other teams' best players and not letting them do anything."
Samuelsson said that while he has exchanged hellos with Michalek, the two have never talked hockey.
"Now that we're in the same organization, I hope we can," he said.
Oh, boy. Another comparison for Samuelsson to live up to.
First Published July 14, 2011 12:00 am