|A future head coach? |
Ulf Samuelsson holds more responsibilities than most NHL associate coaches. As coach Wayne Gretzky's right-hand man in Phoenix, Samuelsson has a large role in designing the Coyotes' practice and tactical plans, and he oversees the club's special teams play.
"I've gotten the opportunity to work with Wayne for three years and I have a pretty unique partnership with him and I do get my hands on a lot of things," he told NHL.com. "I'm very fortunate to be in that position."
Samuelsson's goal is to become the third European-born coach in NHL history, following Alpo Suhonen, who coached Chicago in 2000-01, and Ivan Hlinka, who coached Pittsburgh in 2000-01 and the first four games of the 2001-02 season.
"The only thing I'm missing is that I need to show some success and get some (wins) under my belt," said Samuelsson. "Hopefully things will work out for us with the Coyotes' sale and they'll get some players for us. We have a good, solid youth foundation here with the Coyotes."
-- Adam Kimelman
Generally, growing up the son of an NHL player makes for an easy life.
That is, unless your father happens to be one of the more notorious players of the last 20 years.
That's what Philip Samuelsson
, the son of long-time NHL defenseman Ulf Samuelsson, faced growing up.
Today, Ulf Samuelsson is a highly-respected associate coach with the Phoenix Coyotes. But in 1,080 games over 16 NHL seasons, he gained a reputation for highly physical play that existed on the outer fringes of the rulebook.
Philip, who was 9 years old when Ulf retired, didn't hear much of the vitriol directed at his father, mostly because he rarely saw his father play live on the road.
"We lived in New York where the Rangers fans liked him," Philip told NHL.com. "Pittsburgh, obviously he was pretty well liked. Other than that, I haven't heard too many complaints or heard jeers from the fans. He was who he was and you can't take anything away from him."
Philip doesn't have the kind of reputation his father did, but he does play a similar, hard-hitting style. At 6-foot-3 and 198 pounds, he'll grow to be bigger than his father, who played at 6-1 and 201 pounds. Philip also has a higher offensive upside than his dad, who had just 57 goals and 332 points in his career.
"I think he's got a lot of his dad in him," said one Eastern Conference scout. "He's a hard-nosed guy, plays that physical game. Skating probably needs to come a little bit. He's a big kid, he's competitive."
"Phil's a real big guy," added Central Scouting's Chris Edwards. "He tries to play a physical game and he's used a lot on the No. 1 power play and No. 1 penalty kill units in Chicago (United States Hockey League). His puck skill and decision-making are something he's got to improve on, (but) he's got a real good shot, shoots the puck well."
He had no goals and 22 assists in 54 games this season with the Chicago Steel, but Samuelsson wasn't used in a highly-offensive role. It was the same for the U.S. team at the World Under-18 Championship -- he had 3 assists in seven games, but finished tied for the team lead and tied for second at the event with a plus-9 rating.
Born in Leksand, Sweden, Samuelsson lives with his parents and three siblings in Scottsdale, Ariz., and played for the U.S. National Team Development Program before jumping to the USHL. He is No. 60 in Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2009 Entry Draft.
"I'd say my dad and I have a similar style in that we played defensive styles, shut-down (roles)," Samuelsson told NHL.com. "I'd say the one area that's my strength is I see the ice pretty well. That allows me to use my vision to create offense that way."
"Phil seems to find himself in the right position at all times," said Chicago coach Steve Poapst. "He has a very active and good stick that allows him to break up a lot of plays defensively and wins most of his one-on-one battles for the puck. He is a player that is poised and confident with puck while under pressure and can make the right decision in most of those situations.
"I think he's got a lot of his dad in him. He's a hard-nosed guy, plays that physical game. Skating probably needs to come a little bit. He's a big kid, he's competitive." -- An Eastern Conference scout on Phil Samuelsson
"A lot of people will question his skating but he is so good at owning his space by making sure he is in the right position with a good stick it does not become a factor."
Samuelsson agrees that working on his skating is something that he needs to do to get to the next level.
"What I need to work on is mobility with the puck, just skating in general," he said, "because with today's game you really can't work enough on skating."
And Samuelsson knows first-hand what it will take to reach the NHL. He grew up in championship-caliber NHL locker rooms, watching players like Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Mark Messier, and he sees it today when he visits his father at work.
"I've made a few trips with him with the Coyotes, and it's been a surreal experience to see what the NHL lifestyle is like," said Samuelsson. "It just gives you the extra motivation to go to the gym instead of sitting around."
"He's a very good learner," Ulf Samuelsson told NHL.com. "He understands and picks up things very quickly. He often would sit and watch games and he'll ask specific questions, 'Why was the defenseman over here? Shouldn't he have been there?' And when he's around the team he takes note of how these guys prepare and how much they care and how dedicated all the NHL players are. It's a big plus for the next players to be around NHL players to see what they put into their lives every day."
Samuelsson will take his game next to Boston College. If Philip never has heard bad things said about his father before, they could come in the fall. Ulf remains high on the sporting public enemy list in Boston for his career-altering hit on fan favorite Cam Neely in the 1991 playoffs.
"His thinking in his generation, it's too far back for anyone of that age to know," said Ulf Samuelsson. "He went to a number of schools and as soon as he saw BC, he said right away this is the one. … We've talked about it many times -- things happened up there and he'll probably hear things, but that's nothing he can't handle."
"I think in Boston they still hold a little grudge against him, but that's understandable," said Philip Samuelsson. "We'll see how that goes; I'm not too worried about it. I really like Boston. It's a nice city.
"There's a few odd older people that haven't really gotten over that. I heard it a lot playing minor hockey in the Massachusetts area when I was younger and got some stuff there. But there's nothing I can do about that. … Hopefully I'll give them something else to remember in the Samuelsson name."Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Staff Writer