The comparisons are nearly impossible to avoid.
He's a defenseman. He wears No. 5. He's a member of the Penguins organization. And his last name is Samuelsson.
Regardless of whatever Philip Samuelsson accomplishes in any NHL career he might have, the connection to his father, former Penguins defenseman Ulf Samuelsson will always be there.
While Philip Samuelsson isn't shying away from those comparisons, he wants to establish himself as his own player at the NHL level. He took a step forward in in his second professional season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in 2012-13. Appearing in 65 games - third-most among defenseman on the roster - Samuelsson scored 10 points (two goals, eight assists). He also appeared in all 15 of the team's postseason games and contributed two assists.
With the organization parting ways with established minor league defenseman such as Dylan Reese, Alex Grant and Joey Mormina this offseason, Samuelsson is expected to become a leader on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's blue line next season. In the words of Penguins executive Tom Fitzgerald, "It's his time to be that guy ... the leader."
Samuelsson, a second round pick in 2009, talked yesterday during the team's development camp about his progress, his goals for 2012-13 and his family.
You split the 2011-12 season between Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Wheeling. You spent all of 2012-13 in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Was that a step forward for you?
“Definitely. I’ve never really been one to take big, big steps. Playing-wise, I usually come in and slowly work my way up. Last season, I played in Wilkes-[Barre/Scranton] all year and played in most of the games. I played more minutes as the year went on. Coming this summer, I’m trying to get a little bit stronger and faster to give myself a good chance in training camp. “
In what ways did you progress on the ice in 2012-13?
“I think just being more confident in all aspects of the game. Once you can get to be confident in your game, it’s good. I was better passing the puck and defensively, I was playing much more physical and eliminating second-chance opportunities and stuff like that. “
Established defenseman like Reese, Mormina and Grant have left Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Does that offer you a greater opportunity to take on a larger role there?
“Definitely. Those are some good players that we are losing and their minutes have to be filled somehow. Obviously, there’s a lot of young guys so you still have to be on your toes. But over the past couple of years I’ve established myself at a certain level of play and I’m looking to build off that for sure. “
A lot of high profile defensive prospects will or could join the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins next season. Do you see that as a challenge for playing time?
“Every defenseman that gets drafted here wants to play in Pittsburgh. The more defensemen there are, the harder its going to be. You just have to make the best of the situation and establish yourself as a different player than those guys. “
What’s the biggest key to being a defenseman in the system the NHL and AHL Penguins employ?
“If you’re able to be a good puck mover who can move the puck up to the forwards and be solid in your defensive zone, that’s what I would say is the biggest key for all the defensemen. “
What are your goals for next season?
“Obviously I want to play in the NHL as quickly as possible. I don’t know when that’s going to be but I’m going to work hard the rest of the summer and give myself a chance to compete for some [NHL] games next year. “
Your father recently took a coaching job with the Rangers. Is it nice to have him back in North America after he spent the previous two seasons coaching Modo in Sweden?
“Yeah. It’s only a couple of hours from Wilkes-Barre so it that be nice to have the family close by, that’s for sure. “
What was that like having him on another continent for the past few years?
“The phone bill was pretty expensive. It’s nice to be close by the family and spend the holidays and stuff together. We didn’t really get much together other than the summers. “
Your brother Henrik was drafted in the first round last year here in Pittsburgh. What was that like for you as a family having that happen in the city where your father was a star?
“It’s obviously a pretty cool experience. We were all here for the draft and kind of sat around. We weren’t sure what was going to happen. Then he got pick. It’s a pretty surreal feeling. He’s always been the little brother who’s been tagging around and I’ve always been really proud of him. I knew he was a good player. It was a special moment, that’s for sure. “
Do you ever get tired of being asked questions about your father or being compared to him?
“No. Obviously I’m very proud of his career. Me being a defenseman and playing pretty similar to him…“
And you’re wearing his No. 5 also…
“Yeah. It’s pretty easy to draw that comparison. It never really bothers me. I love talking about him. “
Instead of being known as ‘Ulf’s son,’ would you prefer he was known as ‘Philip’s dad?’
“For sure. I want to establish as an NHL defenseman and have a long career like he did. Whenever that happens, we’ll just have to see but I’m going to just keep working hard until that day happens. “
(Photo: Philip Samuelsson-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins)