For Arizona Coyotes prospect Henrik Samuelsson, hockey is in his blood. His father was premier pest Ulf Samuelsson, a two time Stanley Cup champion. That antagonizing nature that Ulf featured was passed down to Henrik, who, before even playing a game in the NHL, has been labeled as the type of player that the opposition hates to play against. However, unlike his father, Henrik is a forward who owns a pair of soft hands to go along with a knack for making plays in the offensive zone. Combine that with a high hockey IQ, and you start to see why Hockey's Future ranked him as the 43rd best prospect in the game following the 2013-14 season.
The Coyotes drafted Samuelsson with the 27th pick in the first round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Earlier that season, Henrik's draft stock had taken a hit after a poor 15-game performance while playing for MODO in the Swedish Elite League (Interesting fact- the coach of that MODO team was none other than Ulf Samuelsson). He returned to North America for the second half of the season, where he registered 23 points in 28 games and led the Edmonton Oil Kings in scoring during the Memorial Cup playoffs. Despite the fact that he was ranked as the 75th best North American skater by NHL Central Scouting, Arizona took a risk on Samuelsson, who at the time was talented, but still very raw.
And boy, has it ever paid off.
Samuelsson has scored 80 and 95 points, respectively, over the past two seasons on the Oil Kings, and tallied 97 penalty minutes in both years. However, his greatest work to date might have come in the 2014 Memorial Cup. Henrik put up four goals and four assists to lead the tournament in scoring, while leading Edmonton to the most prestigious title in junior hockey: Memorial Cup Champions.
For the future, Samuelsson possesses all the necessary features needed to be an effective power forward in the NHL. He has a big body (he's 6'3 and weighs 216 pounds), and knows how to use it to his advantage both on the forecheck and in front of the net. He also has puck handling ability that is rarely seen in players of his size. His size and skill combination make him an ideal player for any situation, be it five on five, shorthanded, or on a powerplay. But, like even the best, Samuelsson has his flaws. His skating ability has been graded below average, which in turn hampers his speed and defensive play. Fortunately, as mentioned earlier, he has a strong IQ that has helped mask these deficiencies up until this point. Scouts have wondered how much these issues will affect his play at the next level, as they appear to go beyond what could be fixed with a little work.
It is unlikely that Samuelsson will start the 2014-15 campaign in Arizona, but there is a chance that if everything goes well, he will see some big league action later in the year. Many predict that he will start the season with Arizona's AHL affiliate, the Portland Pirates. A return to junior hockey would be a real slap in the face for Samuelsson. He has already proven himself on that level, and it's time for a new challenge.
Now, no one is suggesting that Samuelsson is going to become the next Milan Lucic. Being the 43rd best prospect in hockey certainly isn't being No. 1, and like all prospects, there is always the risk that he will fail to live up to expectations and become a bust. For every John Tavares can't-miss type, there is an Alexandre Daigle (who? Exactly). It is never a good idea to put too much faith in players who have never played a minute in the NHL. Still, after reading scouting reports and watching Henrik Samuelsson play, it's hard not to get excited about his future.