2023 Player Report Card: Mattias Samuelsson
Keeping the Sabres' most important defenseman not named Rasmus or Owen healthy will need to be a priority next season
Total Season Stats: 2-8-10 in 55 games played
Contract Status: Signed through 2029-30, $4,285,714 AAV
The Swedish defenseman cemented his importance to the Buffalo Sabres this season, and kudos to General Manager Kevyn Adams for quickly identifying this and inking the blueliner to a long, long contract. Samuelsson signed a 7 year, $30,000,000 just before the season started and his agent will likely be pretty peeved because his client could easily have added a few more more million to that had he done so at the end of the campaign.
Laden with offensive defensemen, it's the more defensive defensemen in the mold of Samuelsson that the Sabres are in need of. While the 23-year-old doesn't add too much in terms of points, the defensive stability he brings to the team is of critical importance. Buffalo went 33-18-4 with him on the ice, and a meager 9-15-3 without him, which also includes the two wins to close out the season.
Averaging 22:11 time on ice a night (3rd among dmen), of which 19:20 was at even strength (3rd), Samuelsson was also the most important penalty killer on the team with 2:46 shorthanded, well ahead of Ilya Lyubushkin at 2:03 a game.
While it's taken Rasmus Dahlin a couple of years longer to start displaying the elite traits the Sabres expected from him when he was taken at the top of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, very few of us would have expected that the Sabres top pair would both be coming from the top two rounds of that draft with the 32nd pick Samuelsson providing the perfect foil for Dahlin's adventurous side.
There's little to add here about the physical game Samuelsson plays, using his 6'4" frame to box out opposing players, his average of over 5 hits per 60 minutes on ice is among the top numbers on a Buffalo team that is not necessarily known for asserting themselves physically on ice.
Don Granato's attacking system puts added pressure on the defensive dman of the pairing especially when attacking transitions go wrong, but with age on his side, Samuelsson will continue to learn and grow.
Season Grade: A-