Kjell Samuelsson was a towering, 6-foot-6 defenseman in his playing days.
Emil Andrae is nine inches smaller, moving along the blue line at a rounded-up 5-foot-9.
Two Swedes, same position, much different statures.
And that's just fine with Samuelsson, who likes what he sees in Andrae.
Flyers fans themselves will be able to see Andrae play in the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship on the NHL Network. Andrae, the Flyers' 2020 second-round pick, is the captain of Sweden, which opens tournament play against Russia the day after Christmas at 4:30 p.m. ET (see full schedule here).
With some of the Flyers' touted prospects on the blue line like Cam York and Egor Zamula, Andrae has gone under the radar playing overseas in his native country. He's a skilled distributor with a competitive and cerebral game. The Flyers believe those qualities will help make up for what he lacks in size.
"He's good at moving the puck and his skating ability is top notch," Samuelsson, a former Flyer and now player development coach, said Thursday in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "He sees the ice, he's a power play guy. When I went over there five, six weeks ago and watched him play, I was pleasantly surprised of how good he defended and how good of a stick he has. He's never going to really run somebody over because of his size, but he used his stick and his feet to defend. And he was very good."
Andrae has recorded two goals and 14 assists through 21 games for HV71 in HockeyAllsvenskan, a pro league that is a tier below the SHL. When a club finishes among the bottom two in the SHL, it gets relegated the next season. As a result, HV71 is leading HockeyAllsvenskan this season and aiming to jump back up to the SHL.
"That's a pretty good league, too," Samuelsson said. "Even if he doesn't play in the SHL right now, they are one of the top teams in the league below and that's perfect for him, he gets ice time. Every game, he probably plays up to or close to 25 minutes."
Andrae has worked closely with HV71 assistant coach Fredrik Stillman, who was a defenseman with the same size as the Flyers' prospect and had a similar game.
Samuelsson has seen maturity and well-roundedness in Andrae's play.
"He's learned how to manage his games so it's not all about offense and is also playing a little bit simpler in his puck-moving game," Samuelsson said. "He's not looking away the first pass option, he's moving it up. Be simple but effective in that area. When he was younger, and this is like all younger players, they look away the simple play and try to make a more spectacular pass. He has learned a lot in that."
And the Flyers love his motor.
"He plays with a lot of intensity and he works hard," Samuelsson said. "When you watch him play, you can't say there's ever any laziness in him at all. He never takes a shift off, he's going full out all the time."
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