The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Die By The Blade community. It was a combination of seven staff writers and over 250 fans that ranked players under the age of 25 as of July 15th, 2020. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production to rank each player. This is our 2020 pre-draft rankings.
A polarizing prospect since the Buffalo Sabres drafted him a little over two years ago, Mattias Samuelsson finds himself in the heart of the mix of depth built within the organization on the blueline. Equipped with an NHL-ready body at 6’4” 220 pounds, the stout defenseman is following a steady upward trajectory that the Jason Botterill regime hoped when selecting him with the first pick in the second round in 2018.
So why is he so polarizing? Well, for one, his father, Kjell Samuelsson, played a healthy 813 games in the NHL. Kjell played 14 NHL seasons and won back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the early 1990’s.
Secondly, Mattias plays a hard-nosed, physical style that particularly appeals to the old-fashioned crowd. On the other end of the spectrum, many defensemen with this style of play have not necessarily seen it translate to success in the new-school, faster-paced, puck-moving era of the NHL. There are questions about his skating ability and how well he’ll transition the puck at the highest level.
There is reason for optimism, however, as Samuelsson is coming off of a real solid season in the NCAA. After being named an alternate captain of his Western Michigan Broncos, he improved his scoring to nearly a point every other game. Strides in the offensive zone were encouraging as he continued his aggressive and physical play in the defensive and neutral zones.
Here’s a measure of his projection path so far, per dobberprospects.com:
To cap things off, Samuelsson was named to the U.S. under-20 World Junior team for the second straight season, this time as the captain of his country. The team disappointingly fell to Finland in the quarterfinals, however, and therefore were eliminated without collecting a medal.
As for where the big defenseman projects within the organization, Samuelsson faces a tough battle in the coming years with the logjam at the blueline in the organization. Rasmus Dahlin and Henri Jokiharju are both under 22 and already staples on the big club. Jacob Bryson and Will Borgen are close-to-ready prospects coming of solid AHL seasons. Offensive-defenseman Oskari Laaksonen recently signed to come over to North America next season, and even despite Lawrence Pilut fleeing for the KHL, Samuelsson will also have to compete with 2019 first-round pick Ryan Johnson in the coming years for a significant role.