Coyotes prospect profile: Philip Samuelsson

Coyotes prospect Philip Samuelsson gets ready during a faceoff against the Calgary Flames at Gila River Arena on Jan. 15.

Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Philip Samuelsson’s arrival in Glendale two months ago confirmed the Coyotes coaching staff’s long-held suspicions. 

Samuelsson wasn’t ready to assume a spot in the team’s top two defensive pairings after the January trade that brought him from Pittsburgh for forward Rob Klinkhammer and a conditional, 2016 fifth-round draft pick, but his ability to defend the net and provide a physical presence was a welcome addition.

"The absence of that in our lineup really jumped out at us once we had Philip come through and we had Andrew Campbell come through and when we made the trade for (Klas) Dahlbeck," said Coyotes assistant coach Jim Playfair, who coaches the defense. "Going forward, we’d like to see those three players get into a competitive battle to see who starts the season here and who can maintain the game up here or, if not, progress in the American Hockey League to where we can bring them up and fill that role."

By all accounts, Samuelsson (four goals and 18 points in 59 games) has played well in that role in Portland. The Pirates had their seven-game winning streak snapped on Friday, but still earned a point in an overtime loss to Hershey that has pulled them within two points of Providence for second place in the Atlantic Division with 14 games to play in the regular season.

"For me, it’s just about learning to play a more rounded game by being able to contribute more offensively and making quicker and better decisions with the puck," Samuelsson said. "I’m still fine tuning my defensive game; learning to maintain good gaps, but my game has grown a lot since I’ve been down here and my offensive game has grown a lot."

Samuelsson earned a four-game cameo with the Coyotes after the January trade, but he was re-assigned to Portland on Jan. 21. He has been working with Pirates assistant John Slaney, who played 268 NHL games split between seven clubs including the Coyotes.

"He wants me to be more confident in making plays on the breakout and being able to join the rush," Samuelsson said. "I’ve done it in the past but not as consistently."

Samuelsson is also working to perfect a slight difference in the way the Coyotes defend vs. the Penguins.

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"It’s a little bit different philosophy with how aggressive they want the defense to be," he said. "If we give up anything here, it’s outside shots. In Pittsburgh, they wanted to challenge the shooters a bit earlier."

Samuelsson said having the opportunity to play with his brother, Henrik, in Portland is both a thrill and security blanket.

"We can talk in Swedish and nobody one else knows what we’re talking about," he said, laughing.

Samuelsson expects to attend Coyotes training camp with his brother next season where both hope to bring something the Coyotes can’t refuse when assembling their roster.

"Like I said, I’m working on improving my whole game but that physical aspect is something I can bring maybe more than anyone else," said Samuelsson, whose dad, Ulf, made a name for himself with that element of his game. "When it comes to rebounds, you have to be strong to do whatever it takes to get it out of there, even if that sometimes means getting a little dirty. You can get away with a little more in front of the net. That’s one of the areas in the game that is still pretty much untouched."

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