Hard-nosed defensive defenseman Kjell Samuelsson was born October 18, 1958 in Tyngsryd, Sweden. Standing 6-foot-6 and weighing 235 pounds, Samuelsson learned how to use his wingspan and positional savvy to his advantage. He also played with a mean streak as part of a physical and courageous style that often saw him sacrifice his body willingly to block opposition shots.
Selected by the New York Rangers in the sixth round (119th overall) of the 1984 NHL Draft, the late-blooming Samuelsson did not debut in the National Hockey League until he was 28 years old but he went on to carve out a solid career that saw him play 813 regular season games (48 goals, 138 assists, 186 points, 1,225 penalty minutes) and 123 playoff games (four goals, 20 assists, 24 points, 178 penalty minutes).
As a Flyer, Samuelsson played 545 regular season games, posting a cumulative plus-103 rating and 141 points (35 goals, 106 assists) to go along with 815 penalty minutes. He dressed in 70 playoff games, contributing 16 points (four goals, 12 assists), 98 penalty minutes and a plus-24 rating.
Nicknamed "Duke" as in the comic strip Marmaduke character, Samuelsson was never noted for his offensive game. However, he possessed a heavy and accurate righthanded shot that was good enough to produce a few goals per season when teams would back off and concede an uncontested shot. He scored as many as nine goals (1990-91) in a season.
On December 18, 1986, the Flyers traded goaltender Bob Froese to the Rangers in exchange for Samuelsson and a 1989 second-round pick (Bob Froese). Samuelsson stepped right into Mike Keenan's lineup as a sturdy defensive presence on a team that fell just one win short of winning the Stanley Cup.
In 1987-88, Samuelsson enjoyed a strong season (plus-28, 184 penalty minutes, 30 points, three power play goals) for the Flyers. Keenan, the coach of the Wales Conference All-Stars rewarded him with a selection to the NHL All-Star Game.
The next season, Samuelsson won the first of his two Barry Ashbee Trophies as the Flyers best defenseman. He duplicated the feat in 1990-91. During these years, Samuelsson formed an effective defense pairing with Hall of Fame defenseman Mark Howe (although Howe was often injured during this phase of his career). Samuelsson and Howe worked out a method of having the big Swede take away an attacker's upper body while Howe went for the puck.
On February 19, 1992, the Flyers traded Samuelsson, Rick Tocchet and Ken Wregget to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a deal that brought burgeoning star Mark Recchi, defenseman Brian Benning and a 1992 first-round pick (Jason Bowen) to Philadelphia. The Penguins went on to win their second their second straight Stanley Cup championship.
Samuelsson rejoined the Flyers as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 1995. Paired with second-year pro Chris Therien, Samuelsson posted a plus-20 rating and 13 points in 1995-96. The next year, neck surgery limited Samuelsson to 34 regular season games (four goals, plus-17) but he returned to play in the Stanley Cup Final against the Detroit Red Wings. Samuelsson dressed in 49 games during the 1997-98 season. He finished his NHL playing career as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1998-99.
After retiring as a player, Samuelsson embarked on a long coaching career in the Flyers organization, including a stint as the Philadelphia Phantoms (AHL) head coach. In 2012-13, he was named player development coach in charge of working with defense prospects in the organization.