PITTSBURGH – For the first time since 2008, the Coyotes on Friday used their first pick in an NHL Entry Draft to select a forward. Phoenix, picking late in the first round with the 27th overall selection, drafted Henrik Samuelsson, son of former Associate Coach Ulf Samuelsson.
“This was a really special experience for me,” Samuelsson said after being drafted. “I wasn’t really expecting it… it was an unbelievable feeling when my name got called.”
► Click here to listen to Samuelsson answer questions after being drafted.
Meanwhile, a few moments after drafting Samuelsson, the Coyotes re-acquired defenseman Zbynek Michalek from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for for defenseman Harrison Ruopp, goaltender Marc Cheverie and the 81st selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
|Zbynek Michalek |
“I take a lot of pride in playing for Phoenix,” Michalek said. “I’m really happy to be back, and it feels like I’m coming back home. I’m really happy it worked out this way. I like the way the team is going.”
The NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau ranked Samuelsson, who was born in Pittsburgh but grew up in Scottsdale watching Coyotes games and practices, the 75th North American skater.
The Coyotes like his size, shot and pedigree.
“We were looking for a big forward that could bring us some offense,” Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney said. “We’re really thrilled to have him. He’s not afraid to go to the net or crack a guy over the head to get to the net.”
Samuelsson is a well-traveled player. Only 18 years old, he already has played youth hockey in Scottsdale, for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., for MoDo – the Swedish Elite League team his father now coaches – and the Edmonton Oil Kings, who won the Western Hockey League title this season.
Samuelsson began playing the 2011-12 season in the Swedish Elite League on smaller rinks and against players much older than he is. He opted to return to North American hockey in January. In 28 regular-season games, Samuelsson notched seven goals and 16 assists for Edmonton. In 17 postseason appearances, he notched four goals and 10 assists.
“I definitely think (coming back to North America) paid off for me,” Samuelsson said. “I played good when I came back to Edmonton. I thought I played really well. So, I think that really helped me out.”
Ulf Samuelsson, who was drafted 67th overall in 1982 by Hartford, spent 17 seasons in the NHL as a defenseman and later five seasons as Associate Coach with the Coyotes. During his career, he was known as a tough and sometimes nasty player.
Maloney said Henrik Samuelsson has similar qualities.
“He’s always had this little edge to him, which is a good thing,” Maloney said. “We value hockey sense and we value courage and he’s got a lot of both.”
|Henrik Samuelsson. Photo by Getty Images. |
He added, “He’s got great hands. As a 14-year-old, he had an NHL shot.”
Henrik Samuelsson said his father gave him some great advice before the first round of the draft on Friday.
“He just told me expect not to get drafted, because if I didn’t get drafted then I wouldn’t be upset, but if I got drafted I would be even happier,” Samuelsson said. “So, I just came in with that mind-set and I was super happy when my name got called.”
Henrik’s older brother Philip, who also played youth hockey in Scottsdale, was a second-round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009. Last year, the Coyotes drafted forward Zac Larraza, also a product of youth hockey in Scottsdale.
Regarding Michalek, who left Phoenix to sign with Pittsburgh as a free agent after the 2009-10 season, Maloney said the Coyotes never wanted to lose him.
“We just thought with the way we play - with Dave Tippett (as coach) and our style – that we needed that No. 1 match-up guy (on defense),” Maloney said. “He was a guy who just fit with us… He was an assistant captain when he left so we know what we’re getting.”