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Samuelsson led by example as a freshman

Notes from Day 3 of development camp

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

For insight into Mattias Samuelsson's leadership skills, look no further than the two Western Michigan forwards practicing with the Sabres as invites to development camp.  

Dawson DiPietro and Josh Passolt were part of a vote that resulted in Samuelsson being selected to serve as a captain for the Broncos next season, rarified territory for a sophomore. 

"That hasn't happened many times in Western Michigan history," DiPietro said. "I think that shows a lot about his character as a player."

"It's very impressive," Passolt added. "In the culture of our hockey program at Western, it's a senior-led team. For a guy like that to come in as highly touted as he was and just go about his business every day, it's very impressive."

Samuelsson was lauded for his leadership after being selected by the Sabres in the second round of the 2018 draft. Assistant general manager Randy Sexton said then that the Sabres were struck by his maturity, having already captained Team USA at the U18 World Championship. 
 
It didn't take long for Samuelsson to make that same impression as a freshman with the Broncos last season. Though he was making the difficult transition to college hockey, Passolt said the defenseman led by example through his actions on and off the ice. 

"He's an awesome guy," Passolt said. "I can't say enough good things about him. I mean, there's a reason he was the captain of the National Development Team. He just goes about his business, wants to get better every day. He's real solid for us."

Video: DEVELOPMENT CAMP: Samuelsson

Samuelsson tallied 12 points (5+7) in 35 games for the Broncos, though his primary responsibility was locking down his own end. 

"I think he's just a presence out there," DiPietro said of the 6-foot-4 defenseman. "He's big guy. He's a big body out there. He gets it done every time he's on the ice. He doesn't really have to say much, but he gets the job done. He's a physical guy. He's a guy people look up to."

Samuelsson spent development camp last summer rooming with fellow defenseman Brandon Hickey, who had captained his own collegiate team at Boston University. Hickey said he's already seen strides in Samuelsson's game after three on-ice sessions this week.

"I've noticed a lot of improvement with him," he said. "His game's just going to continue to develop. He's playing against college players now - bigger, stronger, faster guys so each year you're going to see a little more improvement with him. I've been nothing but impressed with how he's been this year so far."

The goal for the rest of the summer, Samuelsson said, is continuing to get bigger and stronger. He's spent extra time with Western Michigan strength coach Tim Herrmann working on his explosiveness after seeing how the speed of the game increased at the NCAA level.

"I just went from the USHL to college and then, I mean, I haven't done it but college to pros seems faster and smarter," he said. "I think you've just got to keep developing, getting stronger and getting faster. The game's fast nowadays."

Now, more notes from Day 3 of development camp. 

 

Hickey benefitted from competition 

Hickey was limited to 38 games as a first-year pro thanks to a crowded defense corps in Rochester last season. It was a far cry from the season prior, when he served captain and played top-pair minutes as a senior at Boston University. 

It was an unfamiliar experience, but Hickey feels he's better for it.

"It pushed me a lot," he said. "We've got a lot of competition back there, but that's a good thing as well. It's friendly competition and the older guys really help out the younger guys, teaching them the game and also the pro lifestyle like how to prepare for games, how to prepare for off days and take care of your body too."

More competition is on the way, with Jacob Bryson and Casey Fitzgerald both turning pro this season following productive NCAA careers. Hickey said he and the team embraced having his former Hockey Easy rivals around when they joined the Amerks on amateur tryouts at the end of last season.

"I had a couple good battles with Fitzy back in the day," he said. "We wrestled a couple times on the ice, so there was a lot of jokes made at our expense about that stuff. But they're really good guys. Both are outstanding people, outstanding players."

 

Pekar sidelined with shoulder injury

Matej Pekar stole the show at development camp a year ago with his combination of skill and physicality - and his week-long mission to get under the skin of Rasmus Dahlin and Casey Mittelstadt. 

He hasn't been able to skate this week due to a minor shoulder injury sustained during the offseason, but he's enjoying his time at camp nonetheless. 

"I'm still around the guys, meeting people," he said. "Any time I'm here in Buffalo, it's a great time."

Pekar scored 36 points (14+22) in 33 OHL games before a broken collarbone ended his season in January. The silver lining was an ATO to end the season in Rochester, which he described as an eye-opening experience. 

"They were so focused on the hockey and everything," he said. "Every single aspect of the game. We're talking nutrition, we're talking psychological aspect of the game. Literally, every single thing that some people might not even think comes with hockey. They were so focused on every possible little thing, detail."

 

Up next

Camp concludes on Saturday with the annual 3-on-3 French Connection Tournament at 10:45 a.m. The tournament will be streamed on Sabres.com and on the team's social media networks. 

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