The Coyotes may live and die by the young swords this season, with Brandon Gormley and Connor Murphy both expected to crack the top six defensive pairings, as well as guys like Lucas Lessio and Max Domi also possessing good chances to make the team. It’s both a blessing and curse for the organization – on one hand, the NHL product has been less than satisfactory, but on the other the pipeline appears prepared to graduate several contributors to the big league squad.
Even after those graduations, the Coyotes still have some great things brewing, albeit it gets thin after the top names. Prospects like Tobias Rieder and Laurent Dauphin have been steadily improving and could soon be ready to take the next step. Throw in the excellent haul of this past draft, Don Maloney has placed this team in a great position for the future.
One guy who I haven’t mentioned who is as big a name as any for the Coyotes faithful is forward Henrik Samuelsson. Son of Ulf, the longtime NHLer, he is but one of Arizona’s prized prospects.
So let’s meet Henrik.
Big power forward game
A huge part of Henrik’s game comes from his size. At six-foot-three, 200 plus pounds, he’s a wrecking ball on the ice. That size allows him to thrive in the “dirty” places on the rink: in front of the net, along the boards and in the corners. Paired with above average offensive skills across the board and some defensive responsibility, opposing skaters best keep their head on swivel when Henrik is on the ice.
If there is one thing Henrik can hang his skates on, it is his numbers. No one will ever say he hasn’t produced enough; at every level, he put points up on the board. But don’t let me tell you – here are his stats since being drafted in 2012 for his junior team, the Edmonton Oil Kings:
2012-13: 33 goals, 47 assists, 80 points, plus-31 in 69 games played
2013-14: 35 goals, 60 assists, 95 points, plus-35 in 65 games played
So not only has he put up great numbers, he’s actually improved year-to-year. If he can replicate the success against men, the sheer numbers may be too much to ignore.
The most common knock on Henrik’s play is his average-at-best skating. It’s not clear whether it’s an effort or mechanical thing, but you’d love to see fixed if you’re an NHL coach. If he can up it average, he can at least keep the game in front of him long enough to make the impact that his talent is capable of.
Due to his physical style of play, Henrik has a tendency to take many bad penalties. Given his size, this may be something that never truly goes away (especially if a reputation starts to form).
Up to this point in his career, Henrik has dominated the competition because he was a man amongst boys. His size and skill were worlds ahead of anyone else on the ice, and he was able to impose his will because of those. It is unclear whether or not he will continue to play at his high level when everyone around him is of a similar physique – which will be the case in the NHL.
Next season, Henrik will have every opportunity to make the roster out of camp, although it’s unlikely he will make the jump from juniors to the NHL. A year in Portland seems all but certain and will be good for his development. Of course, a solid camp could change things, but I don’t think he’ll make the team to start the season.
When he does make the team, Arizona is looking at the next Shane Doan – a guy who is big, produces some points and brings some sandpaper.
When it’s all said and done, though, Henrik is worth taking the time to develop him right. That seems to be the plan, anyway.