With the 32nd overall pick at the 2018 NHL Draft, the Buffalo Sabres took Mattias Samuelsson from the US National Development Team.
Samuelsson is a very good selection for the Sabres, but in a sense, can be viewed as a safe pick. There is little doubt that Samuelsson will be an NHL defenceman, but his ceiling isn’t as high as some of the other guys on the board at the time.
But what are the Sabres getting in Samuelsson?
Breakdown of Samuelsson’s Game
In his evaluation of the 2018 Draft Class Jared went into a lot detail of what Samuelsson can bring to the Sabres.
He is a very big, nasty, and defensively responsible defenceman who will allow his partner the freedom to create and take risks on offence. Which is exactly what he did for the USNDP while playing with Bode Wilde.
Samuelsson’s defensive prowess is well documented. He is always in position and makes the little plays that don’t always get noticed.
He is capable of generating offence through his defensive abilities, just like you saw above. Samuelsson makes a smart calculated poke check that turns into a quick chance of USA going the other way.
The other thing that Samuelsson brings to the defensive side of the game is physicality. Samuelsson loves to throw his body around and take people off the puck. At 6-4, 218 he is the big bodied, stay at home defender the Sabres need to allow players like Dahlin and Guhle to generate offence.
He can also use his body to angle players away from the high danger areas. At times this can be more effective than a big body check because it allows Samuelsson to stay in prime defensive postion, while negating the opponents attack.
In the play below Samuelsson uses his frame to force the Russian player away from the net. He stays in his prime defensive position and manages to use his body and stick to knock the puck off the defending players stick, causing the turnover:
While his defence and physicality are his best assets, there is much more to Samuelsson’s game.
He’s not an elite skilled offensive defenceman, but he does have some offensive tools that will allow him to generate points at the NHL level.
Appearing in 58 games for the USNDP Samuelsson scored 11 goals, and added 20 assists for a total of 31 points. While these numbers don’t jump off the page, they do show the potential for Samuelsson to at least produce something at the next level.
Samuelsson has a very good shot from the point, and he knows how to get himself in a position to use it. He also doesn’t rely on taking big slap shots either.
While he has a bomb of a slap shot, Samuelsson takes whatever shot he can get from the point, and has success getting pucks on net.
In his evaluation of the draft class, Jared compared Samuelsson to Scandella or Muzzin, and I believe those are very good comparisons.
Much like those players, Samuelsson generates his offence through his defensive play. But unlike those other players, I believe that he has more skill and will be a much more consistent offensive producer.
If you give this kid any sort of space to walk in from the point he is going to make you pay.
In this game winner against Youngstown, Samuelsson grabs the puck with a ton of open ice in front of him then walks in a rips a shot over the goalies glove hand.
While these are just two examples, they do show that even though he isn’t known for his elite level skill, Samuelsson does have the potential to be an offensive contributor at the next level.
The thing that excites me about Samuelsson are his intangibles. The things that you can’t measure but makes him a great prospect.
While he may not have the flashiness of some of the other options that were on the board at 32, Samuelsson has things that the others didn’t.
He is a leader, he was a veteran at the USNDP last season and his presence in the room was something that helped the team succeed.
Sameulsson also captained the USA WU18 team at the 2018 World Under 18 Championships, and helped them capture a silver medal.
Just listen to the NHL Network discuss Samuelsson and what the Sabres are getting from him.
Adding a player who has the character and leadership of Samuelsson to the room is great for the organization. The more players like Samuelsson come in, the more players like Gorges, Larsson and others can be shipped out.
Sameulsson’s Role With Buffalo
At the draft, many reported that Samuelsson’s path to the NHL is much shorter than some of the other prospects taken before him. I would have to agree with that sentiment.
He may have been a “safe” selection, but he will be an NHL player in the near future and has all of the tools to have a long career. His coach at the USNDP said he will be a top three or four defenceman for 15 years.
I agree, I think that his defensive prowess makes him a lock to be a big minutes guy. At every level he has been bred for a big minutes role, now he is committed to Western Michigan and will likely have a big role on their blueline as a freshman.
In a perfect world, Samuelsson will play one or two seasons at Western Michigan before making the jump to the professional level. While two seasons is probably likely, I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes the jump after one season because many believe that he is very close to NHL ready.
Once he is ready for an NHL role he will have a big impact on the Sabres’ blueline. Their depth chart will change drastically, and their top six could include the likes of Rasmus Dahlin, Rasmus Ristolainen, Samuelsson, Brendan Guhle, Will Borgen and Lawrence Pilut/Jake McCabe.
That is a very solid defensive group.
Although Samuelssson wasn’t the sexy pick, he will likely have a long successful career in the NHL, and Sabres fans should be thrilled that Botterill has addressed the defensive group the way he has over the last two drafts.
Stats provided by EliteProspects
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