Pennsylvania Natives Set for Draft in Pittsburgh
Henrik Samuelsson admits he was too young to remember what life was really like in Pittsburgh when his dad starred on defense as a member of the Penguins in the early 1990s.
Still, Henrik knows how special it would be for dad to hear his son's name called on the stage at Consol Energy Center during the NHL Draft in the city where he won two Stanley Cups.
"Dad had some good memories [in Pittsburgh]," Henrik Samuelsson told NHL.com. "The fact I was born there and that he spent so much time there and won two Cups is special. Hopefully for the two of us, I'll get drafted."
Samuelsson is one of five Pennsylvania natives with a good shot at hearing his name at some point in the draft, to be held June 22 and 23. Samuelsson, NHL Central Scouting's No. 75 North American skater, is probably the player with the greatest chance of being picked in the opening rounds.
"Though his skating is average, he finds the open holes and is very effective," Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan told NHL.com. "He shoots the puck hard with a quick release and has excellent hockey sense, soft hands and is tough to play against.
"He has a little of his father's edge at times and, with an extra step, could be an impact player. He does compete as well as any player."
Ulf Samuelsson was chosen No. 67 by the Hartford Whalers in 1982 and spent 16 seasons in the League with five different teams. Henrik's brother, Phillip, a defenseman, was drafted No. 61 by the Penguins in 2009.
Why did Henrik decide to play forward after his father and older brother opted for defense?
"I like to score goals," he said. "I figured I couldn't really score a lot of goals as a D-man, so I just stuck to forward."
Samuelsson has been on the move over the past two seasons. He finished with a bang in his draft year, registering four goals, 14 points and 20 penalty minutes for the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Western Hockey League playoffs en route to the Memorial Cup tournament. He had seven goals, 23 points and 42 PIM in 28 regular-season games.
At the start of the 2010-11 campaign, Samuelsson was playing for the U.S. National Team Development Program of the United States Hockey League. He would go overseas at the start of this season to play for his father in Sweden at MODO in the Elitserien. But after receiving limited ice time through the first half of the season, Henrik and his father decided it would be best to return to North America and join the Oil Kings.
Samuelsson thrived in the playoffs for the eventual WHL champion and finished with two goals and five points in the Memorial Cup.
"Going from the NTDP to Sweden was pretty hard at first," Henrik Samuelsson said. "I felt like it would be good experience for me playing in Sweden and playing pro over there, playing against men. It was an eye-opener because they battled every day and worked so hard."
No matter what happens at the draft, Samuelsson expects to be playing for the Oil Kings in 2012-13. The club is a young team that will return most of its key players.
Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald saw enough of Samuelsson to make this assessment prior to the draft:
"You have to look past his skating, because that is the first thing that jumps out at you," MacDonald told NHL.com. "No question he will have to improve his skating in order to compete at the next level, but he has real good size and is a real thick player. He can be physical and has a little feisty side to him, is strong on the puck and in front of net and in the corners."
Like his father, Samuelsson has a fantastic compete level.
"He showed he can handle the puck well and, while he's still a little rough around edges, his all-around game is solid," MacDonald said. "He's responsible at both ends of the rink and could be a dark-horse pick in this draft."
Here's a look at the four other Pennsylvania prospects regarded highly by Central Scouting:
Michael Houser, G, London (OHL): The Wexford native, the Ontario Hockey League's most outstanding player, was the first American and first Knight to be named the Canadian Hockey League's top goaltender.
Wouldn't it be ironic if Houser, passed over in the past two NHL drafts, hears his name called in his hometown of Pittsburgh in his third year of eligibility?
"I feel he will get drafted," Central Scouting's Al Jensen told NHL.com. "His play over the last three seasons can't be ignored. He has the potential to have a very good pro career."
Houser played a CHL-high 3,698 minutes this season and tied the OHL record for wins in a season with 46. He posted a 2.47 goals-against average with six shutouts and a .925 save percentage, playing in 62 of London's 68 games. He helped London win the OHL title and advance to the Memorial Cup Final. He is ranked No. 16 by NHL Central Scouting among draft-eligible North American goalies.
"He's very competitive and aggressive, and outstanding in breakaways or shootouts," Jensen said. "He has excellent net positioning, is very smart at reading plays, and is capable of playing big games and making timely saves."
Houser, 19, came to London as a free agent in 2009-10; he was not drafted by an OHL team. His career regular-season record stands at 93-28-7 and he's posted a save percentage of .900 or better every year.
Travis Jeke, D, Northwood School (HIGH-N.Y.): The Pittsburgh native is ranked No. 184 among North American skaters. In 43 games at Northwood this season, Jeke had 10 goals, 31 points and 40 penalty minutes. He's committed to Boston College in the fall.
"He's been [at Northwood] four years but this is his first year playing defense," Central Scouting's Gary Eggleston told NHL.com. "He's just come on through the year to develop to the point where he's got good offensive upside. He passes the puck right on the tape all the time and has a great shot from the point."
Before joining Northwood Prep, Jeke played in Plymouth, Mich., for Victory Honda Under-16, posting six goals and 12 points in 29 games.
"He's an interesting kid because he was someone we didn't hear of before getting invited to the 2011 Beantown spring classic, where he played well," Eggleston said.
Riley Barber, RW, USA U-18 (USHL): The Pittsburgh native, headed to the University of Miami of Ohio in the fall, had 21 goals (six power-play goals), 36 points and 85 PIM in 60 games with the Under-18 Team this season. In 2010-11, Barber, No. 86 on Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters, had 14 goals, 28 points and 48 PIM with the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the USHL.
"Riley is an excellent two-way player," Miami head coach Rico Blasi told the college website. "On top of having a really good skill set, he is tough to play against and is responsible at both ends of the ice. He has a natural ability to score goals and has great puck-protection skills in the offensive zone. He has a really good head for the game and comes from a good pedigree."
Barber is the son of Don Barber, who played three seasons in the NHL with the San Jose Sharks, Minnesota North Stars, Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets. The elder Barber, who spent four years at Bowling Green University, was drafted in the sixth round (No. 120) by the Edmonton Oilers in 1983.
Justin Wade, D, Fargo (USHL): The sophomore stay-at-home defenseman was born in Bryn Mawr, Pa. He had two goals and seven points in 57 games for the Force in 2011-12 and is committed to the University of Notre Dame for the fall of 2013.
Wade's Canadian Hockey League rights are held by the Owen Sound Attack of the OHL.
"Justin Wade is one of those guys who is going to be a solid defender at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds," Fargo coach John Marks told NHL.com. "And he's only going to get better; he's going to be a force."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer