Buffalo Sabres

From Voorhees to Sabres, Mattias Samuelsson continues family's NHL tradition

From Voorhees to Sabres, Mattias Samuelsson continues family's NHL tradition

Mattias Samuelsson didn’t have to wait long Saturday to hear his name at the 2018 NHL draft.

Samuelsson of the USA National Team Development Program was selected by the Buffalo Sabres with the first pick of the second round (32nd overall) at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

If Samuelsson’s last name rings a bell, it should. He’s the son of Kjell Samuelsson, who played eight seasons with the Flyers and is the team’s director of player development.

The Voorhees, New Jersey, native is committed to Western Michigan University, where he’ll join his brother, Lukas Samuelsson, and Flyers 2016 second-round pick Wade Allison.

“I’m born and raised in South Jersey. I still live there,” Samuelsson said Saturday. “I love it there. I go back and I still hang out with all my friends in middle school. … I’m really thankful that’s where my childhood happened.”

Samuelsson is a left-handed defenseman with tremendous size, much like his father. At the combine, he measured in at 6-foot-4, 218 pounds — two inches shorter than his dad.

“Mattias is a good player. He’s big, he’s smart, he’s well-rounded,” Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said last week. “You can call him a two-way defenseman. He’s going to be a good player.

“Big Kjell always says, ‘Big man with good hands.’ I’m like, ‘Hmm … you get the first part right anyways. Big man. No, [Mattias] is a different player. He’s not as mean as big Sammy, which I say that as a compliment to big Sammy, but he’s more skilled than his dad.”

Samuelsson opted for college hockey instead of major junior hockey, which was an option. The Sarnia Sting drafted Samuelsson in the fourth round of the 2016 OHL draft.

Former Flyers defenseman Derian Hatcher owns the Sting, and he drafted Samuelsson knowing the defenseman's plans, according to the Courier-Post.

“When we played colleges and international,” Samuelsson told the Courier-Post, “I didn’t have to hold it back there, and that’s where I thought I played my best.”

Samuelsson closed as the 21st-rated North American skater by NHL Central Scouting. He registered 38 points in 58 games with the U.S. U-18 team and 14 points in 23 games in the USHL. He captained Team USA during the 2018 U-18 World Junior Championships.

While he’s a different player, Samuelsson will never stop taking advice from his dad.

“He was a pretty big defenseman, so he’s definitely telling me to stick up for myself and how to use my body to my advantage,” Samuelsson said. “To me, I never felt like I was any type of target or anything like that [because my dad was an NHL player].”

More on the 2018 NHL draft

• Flyers' draft shows big year for USA Hockey

• Hextall surprised by Flyers' quiet draft weekend

• With O'Brien, Hextall shows he's 'never' one to be safe

• With Philly ties, Farabee can't wait to help Flyers

• Samuelsson continues family's NHL tradition

 

Flyers reportedly interested in trading for Ryan O'Reilly

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USA Today Images

Flyers reportedly interested in trading for Ryan O'Reilly

Culture change is a funny thing, and it doesn’t just happen in Philadelphia — it’s happening in Buffalo.

It’s no secret the Sabres want to change their recent fortune of not being very good at hockey and it all begins tonight at the draft when they’re expected to take Rasmus Dahlin No. 1 overall.

As we’re hours away from the 2018 NHL draft at American Airlines Center in Dallas, trade speculation will only heat up as we inch even closer to Buffalo selecting the Swedish sensation.

Enter Ryan O’Reilly.

The Sabres are reportedly shopping the 27-year-old and the Flyers are one of the teams rumored to be interested, along with the Canadiens, Hurricanes and Wild, according to Pierre McGuire.

Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic also listed the Flyers as a potential suitor for O’Reilly on Thursday based on the Flyers’ assets and the player fit. From LeBrun:

The Flyers have two first-round picks Friday, 14 overall (from the Blues) and 19 overall (their own). That could be part of a deal, or one of the picks anyway, to entice the Sabres, but I suspect what really has Buffalo intrigued by Philly is their very deep pool of young players throughout their organization. No surprise that Flyers GM Ron Hextall might be looking at O’Reilly, he would fit the type of guy that organization wants.

Per TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Sabres are looking for a package similar to what the Flyers got for Mike Richards in 2011: a young roster player, a high-end prospect and a significant draft pick.

We all remember the day — June 23, 2011 — when the Flyers traded Richards and Jeff Carter in separate deals just hours apart. The Flyers acquired Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and a second-round pick from the Kings.

It should be noted the Sabres are believed as listening on most players as they look to shake things up. Because of draft picks and the mania that generally goes down on draft night, we could see some movement tonight. 

Analysis

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall has stated his interest in adding another veteran centerman but said he’s not interested in doing something that will “bottle us up in three or four years.”

While in context, Hextall was talking about free agency, the same thought process can be applied to the trade market too. Making a trade for a trade’s sake isn’t in Hextall’s M.O.

If the Flyers were to acquire term as would be the case with O’Reilly, they would have to believe that the player is a fit here three or four years down the road.

From an organizational philosophy viewpoint, O’Reilly fits the mold of what Hextall looks for: a consistent 200-foot player who produces on a consistent basis and strong in the faceoff circle.

O’Reilly has averaged 22 goals and 59 points since 2013-14. He’s extremely strong in faceoffs, winning 60 percent of his draws last season and averaging 57.1 percent over the last five seasons.

The Flyers need a third-line center upgrade, and O’Reilly certainly would be a huge improvement. He would give the Flyers a power trio down the middle with Sean Couturier, O’Reilly and Nolan Patrick. He’d allow Dave Hakstol to relieve some pressure from Patrick in his second season. From a hockey perspective, O’Reilly would be a solid addition to the Flyers.

Now the money question. O’Reilly has five years left on a seven-year, $52.5 million extension he signed with the Sabres in 2015 and carries a $7.5 million annual average value.

That’s a hefty cap hit, and an acquiring team would likely ask Buffalo to retain some of it. For the Flyers, the cap is no longer an issue. Hextall has solved that issue, and they have plenty of cap space for 2018-19. Down the line, it could be an issue, but the cap likely will keep increasing.

In the end, I wouldn’t bet on the Flyers acquiring O’Reilly. There’s no rush for the Sabres to move him so if they don’t get what they want, they could kick the can down the road.

More on the Flyers

Flames finally wake up to get back in playoff mix

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AP Images

Flames finally wake up to get back in playoff mix

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski scored three minutes apart in the first period and the Calgary Flames snapped a four-game skid with a 5-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night.

Calgary improved to 1-3-1 in its last five games to gain ground in the tightly contested Western Conference playoff race. With 76 points, the Flames jumped into 10th place, a point ahead of idle St. Louis, and within one of Los Angeles and Colorado.

Mark Giordano also had a goal and assist, while Sean Monahan and Dougie Hamilton also scored.

The Flames won at Buffalo for just the second time in 14 trips (2-8-3 and a tie), and first time in regulation since a 3-1 win on March 15, 1996.

Rookie David Rittich stopped 25 shots before having his first career shutout bid spoiled when Casey Nelson scored with 18 seconds remaining.

The Sabres came out flat in a first period in which they were outshot 17-6 and outscored 2-0. The margin could have been even larger had goalie Chris Johnson not stopped Michael Ferland and Michael Frolik driving alone to the net on chances two minutes apart.

Johnson, who spent last season with the Flames, stopped 18 shots before being pulled after Monahan scored to put Calgary up 4-0 at the 6:01 mark of the second period. Robin Lehner allowed one goal on 19 shots (see full recap).

Stepan’s late goal helps Coyotes squeeze out win
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Derek Stepan scored with 58 seconds left in the third period, leading the Arizona Coyotes to a 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night.

Clayton Keller assisted on the winning goal and also scored in the first period for the Coyotes, who are 8-2-1 in their last 11 games.

Backup Darcy Kuemper made 16 saves in place of starter Antti Raanta, who missed the game due to injury.

Jussi Jokinen scored for the Canucks, who have lost four of their past five games and will likely be without star rookie Brock Boeser for the rest of the regular season after he injured his back against the New York Islanders on Monday night. Jacob Markstrom stopped 32 shots.

Tyler Motte, alone at the side of the net, missed a chance to put Vancouver ahead early in the third period as Nick Cousins deflected his shot to keep it 1-1. Motte got another chance from the slot, but Kuemper made the save.

The Coyotes dominated the shot clock and finally solved Markstrom with less than a minute to play. Keller found Stepan in the slot and he buried it past Markstrom to avoid overtime (see full recap).