SACO — For the first power play of the first exhibition game last weekend, Portland Pirates Coach Ray Edwards sent out his youngest forward, 20-year-old Henrik Samuelsson.

After an extended period of sharp passing and crisp puck movement, Samuelsson rewarded Edwards’ faith by tipping in a Brendan Shinnimin shot from the point to give the Pirates a two-goal cushion in a victory against the Manchester Monarchs.

“His skill level is such that you have to get him out there on the power play,” Edwards said of Samuelsson, who will make his American Hockey League debut Saturday night when Portland opens its regular season against Providence at the Cross Insurance Arena.

“When you’re up a man, he can make people miss and find ways to create offense. And not only on the power play but five-on-five as well. He just has a really high level of skill.”

If the Samuelsson name sounds familiar, that’s because Henrik’s father, Ulf, won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 16-year NHL career that began in Hartford and continued with Pittsburgh, the New York Rangers, Detroit and Philadelphia.

The Penguins drafted Ulf’s oldest son, Philip, in the 2009 second round and he has played the past two seasons with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL. He also saw action in five NHL games last winter.


Henrik is the second of four Samuelsson children. The Coyotes made him their 2012 first-round pick, 27th overall. Their system also includes the sons of three other former NHL players – Al MacInnis, Tie Domi and Sean Burke, who serves as their goalie coach and assistant to the general manager.

“You see it a lot,” said Edwards of the trend toward filial fitness. “Because they’re around it and they grew up with it, most of those kids have a high hockey IQ.”

Henrik Samuelsson – known to his teammates as Hank – spent the past 21/2 seasons with Edmonton of the Western Junior Hockey League. He turned pro at 17, playing half a season for a Swedish team coached by his father. The previous year, as a 16-year-old, he played for the U.S. national development team based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“When I was younger I played (hockey) for fun but I realized I could do it hopefully as a job one day when I was around 16,” said Samuelsson, who also played soccer and lacrosse. “That’s when I started to invest a lot more time in hockey.”

His 18-year-old sister, Victoria, also plays hockey – she plans on enrolling at Penn State next year – as does his 14-year-old brother, Adam. Ulf Samuelsson is now an assistant coach with the Rangers. He had been an assistant with the Coyotes from 2006-11, with four of those seasons under Coach Wayne Gretzky, an occasional dinner guest in the Samuelsson household.

“It’s pretty awesome growing up with your dad in the NHL,” said Henrik, who at 15 played in a fantasy camp run by Gretzky. “You learn a lot of stuff from him and from the players, being around the locker room. It was definitely a privilege to be around that.”


Last winter Samuelsson led Edmonton to the Memorial Cup – the national championship of Canadian junior hockey – with 35 goals and 60 assists. He’s the only Pirate to score in both exhibition games last weekend against Manchester.

“It was only exhibition,” Samuelsson said. “I’m assuming that the games will be a lot tougher in the regular season. Even though I’m a young guy I want to contribute and help this team win.”

The only other 20-year-old on the roster is defenseman Justin Hache, who is four months younger than Samuelsson.

Defenseman Brandon Gormley, another Coyotes prospect, saw a lot of Samuelsson in Arizona’s recent NHL training camp before returning to Portland. The transition from junior hockey to the AHL is not always seamless.

“He’s a goal scorer,” Gormley said. “He’s got the hands and he thinks the game well. I don’t see him having any issues.”

Ulf Samuelsson was not always looked upon kindly by opposing fans, particularly those in Boston who remember his playoff check on Cam Neely that turned around a series the Bruins had led 2-0 and may have shortened Neely’s career.

“And Hank, he’s got his dad’s competitive spirit,” Edwards said. “He’s a real competitive player. He’s got a fire in his belly just like his dad did. He’s going to stick up for himself and play with an edge.”


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