GLENDALE -- When the Coyotes selected forward Henrik Samuelsson in the first round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft last weekend, they chose a player they were quite familiar with - and vice versa.
Henrik, son of former Coyotes Associate Coach Ulf Samuelsson, was born in Pittsburgh and has spent his whole life around hockey. Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett even remembers young Henrik long before he could even skate.
“I was playing with Ulfie when he was born in Pittsburgh, I think,” Tippett said. “That was a long time ago.”
After his father retired from playing, Henrik and his family settled in Scottsdale. As a kid, he spent plenty of time around the Valley rinks and was exposed to the NHL environment after his father joined the Coyotes organization.
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He then enrolled in the PF Chang’s Hockey Program, and played bantam and midget hockey against some of the better players at his age.
“We just knew from his ability and the bloodlines and the success his father and his brother (Philip) had, we knew he was a special kid from when he first came in with us,” said Mike DeAngelis, who coached Samuelsson during his time in the program. “We’re not surprised by his rapid development and rapid growth to where he stands today.”
After spending time growing his game with the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., Samuelsson decided to continue his hockey career this past season by playing for Modo in Sweden, with his dad – the team’s head coach - nearby. But after spending some time there, Henrik realized that his hard, aggressive makeup was not particularly suited for the European game.
“I felt like I needed a change in hockey,” Samuelsson said. “My style of game really didn’t fit over in Sweden, so me and my dad decided for me to move to Edmonton.”
After leaving Sweden, Henrik signed on to play in the Western Hockey League, where he notched seven goals and 16 assists in 28 regular-season games, helping the Edmonton Oil Kings win the WHL championship. He then went on to lead Edmonton in scoring at the 2012 Memorial Cup and was named to the tournament’s all-star team.
Samuelsson, who this week is training and practicing in the Valley with other Coyotes prospects as part of the team’s annual development camp for young players, said the run he and his teammates went on in Edmonton was a memorable experience for him.
“It was really special,” said Samuelsson, whose brother Philip was selected by Pittsburgh in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. “We had a good team and we’ll have a good team next year. So, it was an awesome experience for me.”
|Photo by Norm Hall. |
Henrik got to take part in another memorable experience last weekend as the hard work he put in, in Scottsdale, Ann Arbor, Sweden, and Edmonton paid off in a big way when was chosen with the 27th overall selection in the draft.
“It felt great to put on the Coyotes sweater,” Samuelsson said after his first day at the prospect camp. “It was an awesome feeling putting it on for the first time and being drafted by them.”
Henrik is one of 20 forwards at camp and he’ll also be in attendance at USA Hockey’s National Junior Evaluation Camp, which will take place in Lake Placid, N.Y. in early August.
Camps like these present the best opportunity for Henrik to measure his game against other top prospects.
“I need to get better at everything to be able to make it to the NHL,” Samuelsson said, “…but focus on my skating, my quickness in my game, those are the two main things I need to work on."
But for this week Henrik says he’s just enjoying the beginning of his NHL journey and the fact that he has the privilege of starting that journey in front of familiar faces in a very familiar rink – the Ice Den in Scottsdale.
“It’s kind of cool having your friends there supporting you,” Samuelsson said on Tuesday. “That’s the most people I’ve ever had in Arizona for practice or even a game, so it was really cool.”