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Samuelsson develops physical style for Sabres similar to father Kjell

Second-round pick showing retired defenseman's influence on road to NHL

by Joe Yerdon / Correspondent

BUFFALO -- Mattias Samuelsson had the perfect mentor growing up.

The defenseman, the second-round pick (No. 32) of the Buffalo Sabres in the 2018 NHL Draft, is the son of 14-year NHL veteran Kjell Samuelsson, who was part of the Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup championship team in 1991-92 and works in player development for the Philadelphia Flyers. Kjell was known for being an imposing physical defenseman during his 813 career games. Mattias (6-foot-4, 217 pounds) already has picked up some of his father's style.


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"When I was little, he taught me everything I knew," Mattias, 18, said during Sabres development camp in June. "He's not as much of a coach anymore, he's more of a dad now, but he'll watch games and if he can give me a tip or a point somewhere he'll do that. I'm all-ears and he's my go-to guy when I've got a question."

Last season, Samuelsson was part of USA Hockey's National Team Development Program under-18 team and his physicality was apparent. He had 31 points (11 goals, 20 assists) and a team-leading 113 penalty minutes.

"It's a big part of my game (being physical) and I use it all over the ice, so I mean I'm not tired of hearing it," Samuelsson said. "That's the way I play and I like playing physical and I use it as much as I can. I can do other things besides be physical, but yeah, it's a big part of my game."

Video: Sabres draft D Mattias Samuelsson No. 32

Samuelsson is committed to Western Michigan University for the 2018-19 season. Getting a four-day long look at him during development camp helps determine where the Sabres want to see improvement.

"I think it's something we're trying to get a base of where they are now and the reality is some of these kids, like a Lawrence Pilut comes in and he was in the World Championship in the spring, an 18 year-old draft pick typically is not there," Sabres assistant general manager Steve Greeley said. "The talent level is all over the place in terms of experience, so for us it's trying to find out where they are today as a player, what we do think we have to work on them with, what are the main areas of focus to develop them so that when they come back next summer we don't say, 'Jeez, his skating hasn't really improved.' It's something that we're addressing … with these kids and we started pointing it out in their exit interviews (at the end of camp)."

Although college will be the next challenge for Samuelsson, he knows he can always make a call home to get some expert instruction.

"Game-wise, I don't know if you're allowed to do the stuff that he did anymore, but he still teaches me how to defend now," Samuelsson said. "He does that with me now, so he knows what he's doing. He's the reason why I'm here today."

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