The sight of a Samuelsson wearing No. 5 is becoming as common at CONSOL Energy Center as it was at Civic Arena.
Defenseman prospect Philip Samuelsson arrives at 2013 Development Camp for his fifth year in the Penguins organization. Father Ulf played only four full seasons with the Penguins – plus 14 games in 1991 after he was acquired from Hartford.
Philip was only 17 years old when the Pens selected him in the second round of the 2009 NHL Draft. Now holding the experience of two minor league seasons, Samuelsson says this year’s camp has a different meaning for him.
“I’m hoping to make more of a statement than I did a couple years ago (when) I was just kind of excited to be here,” Samuelsson said. “Now I’m really looking to make a name for myself in this organization.
“My mindset and attitude is much different this year.”
That attitude is an effort to be a true professional. Samuelsson said it was “kind of overwhelming” being in Penguins’ training camp two years ago, just after his 20th birthday. He made the jump from Boston College to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League, but in March of that season was sent down to Wheeling for five games.
“It took me a year there to kind of figure out how to act day-to-day and how to take care of (myself),” Samuelsson said. “I think I’m starting to mature in that aspect.”
Other people have higher expectations for Samuelsson this year as well. The defenseman could be the elder statesman on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s blue line in what would be his third AHL season, even though he only turns 22 later in July.
He made a very nice jump this past season,” said John Hynes, head coach of the WBS Penguins. “Again, now we’ve opened up some spots in Wilkes-Barre. If he’s there, he’s going to have to play a pretty prominent role.”
Samuelsson is already taking on that veteran role for development camp. As the organization fills up with highly touted teenage defensemen like Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta, the Penguins want Samuelsson to both feed off their talent and take a special interest in them.
“He was the 18-year-old new draft pick here one day a few years back,” said Tom Fitzgerald, assistant to the general manager. “He knows what it’s like. It’s scary. It’s anxiety. There are a lot of nerves involved. It’s his time to be that guy, that leader.”
Fitzgerald added that the front office is looking at Samuelsson’s chances to make the Penguins roster the same way it did with Brian Strait and Robert Bortuzzo. Both defensemen played two full AHL seasons before they had a taste of the NHL with the Pens.
“They become the veteran, and that’s the process,” Fitzgerald said. “Make that next step. It starts here in development camp.”
Samuelsson said he is motivated to challenge for ice time in Pittsburgh this coming season, or at least play as much as he can in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to knock on the NHL’s door.
Though he is a different player than his father, who totaled a team-high 211 penalty minutes in the Penguins’ first Stanley Cup season, Philip says he is taking a page from Dad’s book in at least one way.
“I think I’m going to be more physical,” Samuelsson said. “Annoying to play against.”
A physical, annoying Samuelsson on the Penguins blue line? Pittsburgh fans may feel some déjà vu this season.