International Ice Hockey Federation

Ties that bind

Ties that bind

Past and Present Converge for Samuelssons

Published 20.04.2018 14:47 GMT+5 | Author Ryan O'Leary
Ties that bind
Adam and Mattias Samuelsson signing autographs before the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. Photo: Rena Laverty / USA Hockey
Adam and Mattias Samuelsson have known each other since before they can remember.

It’s a strange sentence, but it’s true.

Growing up, their families shared a summer cottage in the northern Swedish city of Leksand. Doing what kids do, they played on the lake, kicked a football around and played ball hockey for hours until the sun went down during those long Swedish summer days.

Their tight bond has remained for the better part of two decades and today they find themselves in Russia, competing together for a U18 World Championship gold medal.

Yet, despite Swedish names and Swedish fathers who both played in the NHL, the two defencemen are competing for the United States.

They wouldn’t have it any other way.

Adam is the son of NHL legend Ulf Samuelsson, who played 19 years in the NHL and Mattias is the son of Kjell Samuelsson, who spent 14 years in the NHL.

For those who don’t remember, the Samuelsson, who aren’t blood related, were mainstays on NHL bluelines for a long time. Though they combined to play for several different teams, their paths crossed in Pittsburgh for the 1991-92 season.

They won a Stanley Cup together that year (Ulf won with Pittsburgh the year before as well) and their friendship cemented.

Both Samuelssons played for Pittsburgh until the end of the 1994-95 season before joining separate teams and taking different NHL paths.

But as life went on, the two would raise their families together. Surprisingly or maybe not so much given the story, in 2000, they both welcomed sons to the family.

Those boys are Adam and Mattias.

They have deep Swedish roots, but both Adam and Mattias were raised in the United States. They both speak Swedish and exude the laid back Swedish personality – never too high and never too low in any given situation.

“We still speak Swedish at home,” Adam said. “I have a few particular Swedish foods that I eat all the time.”

But, everything else about them is American and their okay with that.

Maybe the best example of that is the fact they both (independently) chose to play for the United States Team Development Program in Michigan rather than taking an alternate route to junior hockey or even back to Sweden.

“There’s really no other world class program like it,” said Adam. “I could’ve gone to juniors but thought this was the best option to develop as a player and person.”

When asked if the thought even entered their minds to compete for Sweden, the answers were emphatic: no.

“I’ve always wanted to play for U.S.,” said Mattias. “I don't even think I’m eligible to play for Sweden anymore,” he chuckled.

That’s not a knock on Sweden or their heritage, it’s just that, they’re American and really know nothing different.

Neither player even saw their dad play hockey. They’ve seen clips and replays and things, but they don’t have any real memory of their dad’s playing days.

“Our dads competed hard,” said Mattias. “They weren’t fighters, but they did what the team needed and didn't back down from anyone.”

Both strike a massive figure just like their dads. Mattias is 6’4” and 217-lbs, while Adam is 6’5” and tips the scales at 240-lbs. Their fathers were both

Their fathers were of similar stature, as well.. But Ulf and Kjell were known as shutdown defenders – bruisers – with very little offensive polish to their games. Combined, they averaged 0.3 PPG in over 1,800 NHL games.

Adam and Mattias appreciate the grit and grind their father’s brought to the NHL in an era when Swedish players were thought to be soft, but this is another area where they’re happy to divert from their dads.

“I’m a two-way player that will do whatever the team needs,” said Mattias. “My compete level is the same as my dad, but I’m more offensively minded.”

Adam thinks similarly. “I’ve always looked up to my dad – he’s been a tremendous influence for me.

“My dad played a little more angry as a shutdown guy and I’d rather play more like an Erik Karlsson or the other silky-smooth Swedish defenders.”

Draft eligible this year, scouts are high on both players and for good reason. Adam had 24 points in 55 games while adding 88 penalty minutes for the USNTDP and Mattias was good for 29 points in 51 games and a whopping 107 penalty minutes.

“He utilizes his size as a strength and defensively he stands out,” said Dan Marr of NHL Central Scouting of Mattias.

As for Adam, he has potential to be drafted high.

“He definitely has a chance to get into the first round,” said Craig Button of TSN in Canada. “He might be a Brady Skjei type.”

Before they ever play a game in the NHL, both have elected to play college hockey. Mattias is set to join the Western Michigan Broncos while Adam will be joining Boston College in the Fall.

Collegiate hockey is another way in which both men are carving their own paths.

“I decided to play college hockey to get four more years or development and to prepare myself for the future after hockey,” said Mattias.

As for now, none of this is top of mind for both players at the u-18 World Championships. They know history is not on their side in Russia and are looking to change that.

In the three times this tournament has been held in Russia (2003, 2008 & 2013) the U.S. has only amassed a bronze and silver medal.

“It’s super important for us to win in Russia,” started Mattias. “The U.S. hasn’t won a gold medal here, so we want to change that.”

 

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