Samuelsson Set to Make NHL Debut
Philip Samuelsson has carried his family’s legacy wherever he plays, which is especially renowned here in Pittsburgh as his dad, Ulf, was a defenseman on the Penguins’ back-to-back Stanley Cup championship teams in 1991 and ’92.
But regardless of his last name, Philip has had to earn everything he’s gotten at the professional level, including his first NHL call-up – which has finally come in his third season with the organization.
“It is pretty exciting,” said Samuelsson, who will make his NHL debut tonight against Toronto. “It is my first time being up here in the regular season. I always have some nerves but it has been a pretty exciting experience so far.”
Samuelsson, Pittsburgh’s second-round pick (61st overall) in 2009, turned pro for the 2011-12 season after two years at Boston College – where he quickly learned nothing is handed to players at this level. With stiff competition on the blue line, Samuelsson split that year between Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League and Wheeling of the ECHL.
He used that as motivation to improve his game, and has been a regular in WBS’ lineup ever since.
“It has taken some big strides over the past couple years,” Samuelsson said of his development. “Maturing into my body physically and being able to make quicker decisions out there has helped along the way.”
All of that hard work did not go unnoticed by the coaching staff.
“Philip is a guy who has developed the most in our organization of any defenseman in the last three years,” Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said. “He's come a long way. He left BC and he's developed into a top shut-down defenseman, top PK guy for Wilkes-Barre down there.”
Samuelsson, 22, had been paired with fellow 2009 draft pick Simon Despres in WBS, and they will be slotted together again tonight – which should help his comfort level tremendously.
“I think we play pretty well together,” Samuelsson said. “We have a good mix with what we both do. I think we bring out the best in each other and it has been a good pairing for me so far.”
“They’re familiar together, they've been in shutdown roles against the good players and in the PK situations,” Bylsma added. “So they're going to have that familiarity. I think Simon does have more experience in this case and I think it's a good pairing for ‘Sammy’ to step into and be comfortable with. He knows his partner, they’ve been in those situations, and are going to have that communication on the PK as well. Philip should feel pretty comfortable with who he's playing with and the situation he's in.”