is making a name for himself in his sophomore season in the NHL. Off to a strong start, the 25-year old Swedish winger has provided the Rangers with speed, energy and defensive consciousness, while also displaying a more offensive side to his game.
“It takes more than one year to get used to the NHL game,” said Samuelsson who registered six goals and 10 assists in 67 games with the Blueshirts in his rookie season a year ago. “Last year was my first in the league and it was a little bit of an adjustment for me, especially with a new team and new players. This year, I feel a lot more comfortable out on the ice and with the guys. I’m able to handle the puck a little more now and gain confidence in my game.”
His confidence is more than apparent this season. Through 18 games, Samuelsson ranks fifth on the club with five goals and is tied for sixth on the team with eight points. His +4 rating leads the Rangers and his 43 shots on goal place fourth on the club. He is making smart plays with the puck and is always in motion without the puck. This is to head coach Bryan Trottier’s
“Mikael has shown a lot of hunger,” Trottier said. “He has provided our team with a consistent effort from the start of training camp and is making tremendous strides as a player.”
Trottier’s first glance at Samuelsson came almost exactly one year ago as the Rangers battled the Colorado Avalanche at Madison Square Garden last November 20. As an assistant with the Avs, Trottier watched the speedy winger burn Patrick Roy for a pair of goals, including the first of his NHL career, in leading the Rangers to a 5-3 win over the defending Stanley Cup champs.
“He was one of the players who played real well against us,” remembered Trottier. “He was killing penalties and was very tenacious. I was impressed with his game.”
Samuelsson’s all-out effort has continued this season under the watchful eye of Trottier, who has rewarded him with key ice time, especially on the penalty killing unit, where he has recently been paired with Rem Murray
to form an effective tandem. For Samuelsson, he couldn’t ask for anything more.
“I just try to do my best out there all the time, regardless of the situation,” said the likable Samuelsson, who was acquired by the Rangers in the 2001 Draft Day trade that sent Adam Graves to San Jose “I like to score goals but my main responsibility out there is to play sound defense and provide energy out there on every shift. That’s what I can provide this team every night.”