When the calendar changed to 2012, so did Henrik Samuelsson’s surroundings.
Struggling to earn ice time under father Ulf with Modo of the Swedish Elite League, both father and son decided it was best to have the 17-year-old forward in a higher-profile role with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League in early January.
It was a decision both he and Ulf gave considerable contemplation to in the month leading up to Samuelsson’s departure from Sweden.
“I started to think about it more and more,” Samuelsson said. “Me and my dad, around the end of December, we started getting the ball rolling.”
Heading to the Oil Kings shouldn’t come as a complete surprise as Edmonton was also a potential destination this September. Samuelsson admitted it was a coin-toss in deciding to follow his father to Sweden to start the season. The draft eligible forward who played with the United States National Team Development Program last season opted for Sweden.
“It was either WHL or Sweden,” the six-foot-two forward said. “We thought about it. At the start it was 50/50. I just decided to go to Sweden.”
It came down to the opportunity to play and grow his game against more experienced talent.
“Playing with men is always a good thing. I got the chance at the beginning to play with men. That was one of the main reasons I decided to go over.”
But the opportunity to skate with and against players older than him wasn’t readily available for Samuelsson, who played just 15 games in the Elitserien. Instead, Samuelsson played more with Modo’s J20 club, scoring four goals and nine points in 16 games.
Samuelsson has five points in as many games since joining the Oil Kings, positively re-introducing himself to North American scouts. The significance isn’t wasted on Samuelsson.
“The WHL is one of the best leagues in the world to make it to the next level so I felt it was the best option for me.”
In order to make it to the next level, Samuelsson will have to go through the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, another episode in the already eventful season of the Swedish-born American.
“You can’t really think about it too much but it’s a special year,” he said. “Hopefully it will go well, I’m really excited about it.”