Mattias Samuelsson is coming off a 2019-20 collegiate season that saw him captain the Western Michigan Broncos to an 18-13-5 record and was primed to compete in the NCHC playoffs as only a 19 year old sophomore. Samuelsson has always been known for two things: his leadership and his physical presence. He has captained the u18 and u20 teams for team USA and has always had the physicality to separate players from the puck and to clear the front of the net.
While he is not an elite skater; he is more than able to move well around the ice. He has four way mobility and has improved his gap control while at Western Michigan. He isn’t an offensive stalwart, but he has been able to generate more offensive chances by being more aggressive and better positioned through the neutral line and through blue line transitions which was my major criticism of him during his draft year. He has learned to pick spots to break up plays before the offensive players gain a controlled entry to the zone, which in turn has led to more offensive transitions going the opposite way.
Samuelsson is not a transporter of the puck, nor does he have any offensive flair in the o-zone. He makes quick but simple passes to get the puck up the ice. His shot is nothing to write home about, but he is effective enough to be able to get his wrist through traffic. He’ll join a rush on occasion as a trailer, but that is not his preference.
Similar to Ryan Johnson: we remember Samuelsson because of the players we didn’t draft in the low 30s of the draft. Unlike Ryan Johnson: there isn’t anything more Samuelsson has left to prove in the NCAA. The biggest questions I have about Samuelsson all have to do with him maintaining a level of ability moving to the AHL rather than him developing the ability to do something.
If he can make quick, effective passes in the defensive zone that lead to controlled transitions, and if he can continue to defend the blue lines in an NHL average manner that limits controlled entries...I think we’ll see him on the Sabres sooner rather than later. A conservative projection would be as a 6th/7th defenseman that plays in a defensive/PK role. However, if he’s able to continue to play his physical brand of hockey and excels minimizing defensive transitions while being passable in offensive transitions; an aggressive projection could him filling the McCabe role on the Sabres in the future.