Late in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ final game of the Toronto Maple Leafs’-hosted 2013 Rookie Tournament, Philip Samuelsson came into a scrum acting as peacekeeper. He was trying to keep Bobby Shea at bay, but things got heated, and the blueliner dropped the gloves, ending his tournament early.
And, if Samuelsson has anything to say about it, you’re going to see more of that behaviour this year.
“It’s something I’m trying to incorporate into my game,” Samuelsson said of the physical play. “I think last season I had about six or seven fights, so it’s something that I’m not shy to do and I like to stand up for my teammates out there.”
Last season, Samuelsson played 65 games with the Penguins’ AHL farm club in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He was part of a deep and talented blueline prospect pool that suited up at this year’s rookie tournament, and Samuelsson said he was trying to show the staff that he’s ready to compete every game.
“Just by being consistent — that’s how you can usually gauge defensive prospects, it’s how we play night in and night out,” he said. “When looking at the group that we have, we have a lot of high-end defensive prospects and I think we played pretty well and pretty consistently.
“I think these tournaments are usually pretty unique in that a lot of guys are trying to showcase themselves for main camp. That being said, I think we played well as a team — obviously we didn’t have the best results, but we worked hard and played the way the coaches wanted us to play.”
Of course, Penguins fans will remember Philip’s father Ulf, who was a big part of the Pens’ blueline during their two Stanley Cup wins in the early 1990's. Having a famous last name, however, hasn’t raised any expectations for him, he said.
“I don’t think there’s ever been any pressure to live up to him. I’m the player that I am and he’s the player that he was,” he said. “Obviously they’re very big shoes and I’m very proud of what he did in his career but I’m looking to make a name for myself.”
His father, who is now an assistant coach with the New York Rangers, does offer some advice from time to time. And Philip’s happy to take it.
“He’s been around the game so much, he knows the game well,” he said. “Obviously he offers advice and while I’m pretty well learned at this point, you can never stop learning. It’s always great to have another set of eyes out there.”
Philip is not the only Samuelsson son out there. His younger brother Henrik was drafted in the first round by the Phoenix Coyotes at the 2012 NHL Draft. It has spawned a bit of a friendly sibling rivalry.
“It’s good to see someone in your family have success and it certainly helps to drive the competition up in the summers,” he said. “I’m obviously proud of what he’s done and hopefully he can go a long way.”
With the rookie camp complete, Samuelsson now heads to main camp where he hopes to make an impression on the coaching staff and prove he’s ready for the next step. He said he’s been working on moving the puck more quickly and his foot speed in an attempt to crack the NHL roster.
“I’m just trying to stay there as long as I can,” he said. “I’m going to go in there and try to make it as hard as I can on the coaching staff.
“Hopefully they’ll have some decisions to make.”
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