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Dreams From My Father

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Inside the Penguins locker room hangs a black jersey. On the front is the crest of the Penguins logo. On the back reads the name SAMUELSSON with a No. 5 below it.

Though the jersey is hanging inside the locker room at CONSOL Energy Center, a similar image took place 20 years ago across the street at Civic Arena.

Philip Samuelsson at Penguins development camp
It’s like déjà vu all over again.

Defenseman Philip Samuelsson, the son of former Penguin and fan favorite blueliner Ulf, is in Pittsburgh to take part in the team’s 2011 development camp.

And his visage isn’t the only part of him that bares a resemblance to his father, who is a member of the Penguins All-Time Team. Philip's play on the ice has reminded several NHL scouts of his dad.

“We both are shutdown-style defensemen,” said the younger Samuelsson, Pittsburgh’s 61st-overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. “I like to play aggressive and hit within in the rules. He was much more aggressive in hitting because the rules allowed for it. Now the game has changed so much that you have to be smarter with how you are. We’re basically the same, I think.”

That isn’t surprising considering that they both share the same genes and bloodline. Not to mention that Ulf, who is currently the head coach of Modo of the Swedish Elite League, has taught and trained his son from his youth.

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“It’s amazing how much work he’s put into my development,” Philip said. “He looks at a lot of my game tapes and we go over that after the game on what he thinks I can tweak here and there shooting-wise, gap-wise, hitting-wise. It’s something that’s helped me out a lot.”

Another aspect helping Samuelsson develop is the Penguins organization. Samuelsson is attending his first-ever development camp in which team prospects learn the team’s system, the team’s terminology and other fitness and conditioning tips to help them get to the NHL level.

“I’m very exciting to be here in Pittsburgh,” Philip said. “I’m ready to soak in all the information I can and learn everything from the coaching staff and physical training staff.

Ulf and Philip Samuelsson
“It will be a benefit for me in the fall to have a base knowledge of how everything works here, and get more comfortable with the city that I hopefully will one day be playing in.”

Samuelsson spent the last two seasons playing at Boston College. He won the NCAA national title as a freshman, but has opted to start his professional career now and leave college, singing with the Penguins.

“It was a tough decision for me,” he noted. “I have nothing but great things to say about Boston College. It’s a historic program and a great school. For me, I wanted to be a hockey player. I wanted to focus all my attention on hockey and not school. That was my main decision there.”

And in the future the No. 5 Samuelsson jersey could be hanging regularly in the CONSOL Energy Center locker room. Just as Philip remembered seeing it as a boy.

“I remember being a little pup, running around the rinks all the time. I remember being at the old Igloo, being in the locker room,” he said. “I thought I was part of the team then. That’s my earliest memory, being a little rink rat and running around.”

And Samuelsson is well aware of the mutual love between his father and the city where he won two Stanley Cup championships.

“I know from talking to him that he loved the city and the fan base that they had here,” Philip said. “He’s either a hero or a villain depending on where he is. He had that style that was in your face, but it worked for him.”

Ulf, who played 277 games for the Penguins from 1991-95, was also the hero in Game 6 of the 1991 Stanley Cup Final against Minnesota, scoring the game-deciding, Cup-clinching goal in an 8-0 win for Pittsburgh. While many Penguins fans may forget about Ulf’s winning tally, it is not forgotten in the Samuelsson household.

“He won’t let you forget that,” Philip joked. “He loves saying that he won the Stanley Cup.”

Maybe one day his son will make the same claim.

Author: Sam Kasan
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