GLENDALE – Coyotes prospect Henrik Samuelsson is approaching this year’s training camp with great urgency.
After getting a taste of the NHL near the end of last season, and then playing well during the American Hockey League stretch run and playoffs, Samuelsson’s mind-set is to make the Coyotes roster out of training camp this season and stick long-term.
He knows it won’t be easy, but he believes he’s ready.
“It was a long summer but a good summer for me and I’m really excited to get the camp going,” Samuelsson said Tuesday morning after skating informally with other prospects and Coyotes for 90 minutes in Scottsdale. “Getting cut at last year’s camp was very hard for me and I don’t want to experience that feeling again. I feel like I’m good enough to play (in the NHL). I just need to prove that at camp.”
The Coyotes selected Samuelsson with the 27th overall pick at the 2012 NHL Draft. Last season, his first as a pro, he played 73 games in the American Hockey League plus his first three in the NHL during two stints with the Coyotes in February and April.
“To me, Henrik is a wildcard coming into camp,” Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney said. “There is a competitive edge to him and yet from a speed and pure skill standpoint there are other prospects ahead of him right now. But as far as playing the games, he gets results. So, he just might come to camp and grab an open roster spot and never look back, ahead of Anthony Duclair or maybe even Max Domi for that matter … But frankly he’s a bit of an unknown. I know what he was at the end of the year last year in Portland (AHL). He was a very good player down there, especially in the playoffs (with five points in five games). Does that translate to here this weekend and beyond? We’ll see.”
Samuelsson said he has been working on his skating this summer, including two weeks of intense workouts with power skating coach Dawn Braid in Toronto.
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“That was a great experience for me,” Samuelsson said. “We worked on me getting lower in my stride to create more speed. It’s all about breaking an old, bad habit; when you stand up straighter you lose balance more often and you don’t create enough power on the strides as you would like. She told me if I keep working on that I should see improvement and I think I have seen improvement. Hopefully, I’ll get to work with her again in the future, too. I feel different on the ice and hopefully they’ll see a difference.”
Samuelsson made his NHL debut on Feb. 26 vs. the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The icing on the cake was that his father, Ulf, was in the building watching from behind the Rangers bench as an assistant coach.
With that emotional hurdle cleared, Samuelsson is eager to start a new chapter in his career.
“That was an unreal experience,” Samuelsson said. “The first couple shifts of that game I was really nervous, but then it was just another game. I’m glad I was able to get that out of the way. I think everyone experiences a lot of nerves leading up to their first NHL game – and that was great. Now it’s time to get a job with the Coyotes.”
Samuelsson believes his experience in the AHL last season served him well.
“It was definitely a growing process for me and it was tough at some points at the start of the season,” he said. “But I was able to get used to the pro game there, and the hard travel schedule of the AHL, and I just started to play my game by the end of the year, which was nice.”
|Photo by Norm Hall. |
He added, “Some young players have an NHL or bust mentality but the AHL is a really good league and it ages you throughout the year and it helps you become more mature. The hockey is really good and the travel is very tough so you learn how to deal with that over a long season.”
Maloney is eager to see how Samuelsson performs at the rookie camp, which begins Saturday, and then at the main camp alongside the veterans a week later.
“This is a pretty important camp for Henrik because we have a lot of roster holes that we’re holding for young players and there are guys chasing him right now,” Maloney said. “He’d better be ready and push back.”
Henrik, who grew up in Scottsdale while his dad was an assistant coach with the Coyotes, won’t be the only Samuelsson at training camp. His brother Philip, a defenseman, also will attend and compete for a job. The siblings played as AHL teammates last season after the Coyotes acquired Philip from Pittsburgh in a trade completed in December.
“It’ll be great having my brother here,” Henrik Samuelsson said. “We’re really good buddies. And he’s a really good player and proved that down in Portland last year. Hopefully he gets a chance here and we can both play for the Coyotes together.”