Penguins defensive prospect Philip Samuelsson comes from a hockey lineage.
The eldest son of Ulf Samuelsson, a former NHL defenseman and two-time Stanley Cup champion with Pittsburgh, Philip carries the family legacy wherever he plays.
But Samuelsson, 21, learned a valuable lesson last year in his first season of professional hockey. Nothing is given to players in the pro level.
“I’ve never been forced to fight to get into the lineup,” said Samuelsson, who played two seasons at Boston College before turning pro. “I took it for granted.”
With stiff competition on the blue line, Samuelsson split the 2011-12 season between Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League and Wheeling of the ECHL.
And he learned a lot from his experience.
“(That) put it into perspective. You have to earn your ice time everyday,” he said. “That’s something that I improved on. Competition is good. It makes you want to be better. This is a great place for defensemen. There are a lot of good D-men. It makes you work that much harder so that you can advance in the ranks.”
Samuelsson put those lessons to good use over the summer. He trained in Sweden with a new sense of drive and motivation. The hard work paid off.
Samuelsson has been a regular in the WBS lineup during the current campaign, notching a plus-4 rating while appearing in 10 games. He’s also played in key situations and critical moments in games.
Samuelsson, Pittsburgh’s second-round pick (61st overall) in the 2009 NHL Draft, attributes his improvement to the teachings of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes and assistant coach Alain Nassredine, a former NHL defenseman.
“It’s not an easy step. I think the staff helped me segue from college to pro,” Samuelsson said. “The speed of the game, the strength of the players, you’re playing against men. It’s a big adjustment coming from school. They’re both really passionate about the game. Any insight that ‘Nas’ can share is huge. Hynes has been around the game long enough to know what it takes to develop players.”
Samuelsson’s biggest area of development may be his ability to handle adversity and overcome.
“There have been a lot of ups and downs for me. You have to learn from them and improve,” Samuelsson said. “I thought I did a pretty good job mentally of handling them. I’m still working hard and trying to get better. I had a lot of fun and I excited about this year.”