SYRACUSE, N.Y. — There was something oddly familiar about the player wearing No. 5 jersey for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
While the Baby Pens are using a throwback style similar to the jersey the Pittsburgh Penguins wore during their Stanley Cup days of 1991 and 1992, seeing a defenseman wearing that number and the name "Samuelsson" on the back is sure to draw some attention, as Ulf Samuelsson was one of the key pieces to those two championship clubs, playing a rugged style of defense and helping the franchise claim their first two titles.
Sure enough, the skater wearing that familiar number is Samuelsson's son, Philip, one of the prospects playing in the AHL for Pittsburgh. The team's second-round pick of the 2009 NHL Draft, it's no accident he's sporting his father's number for the organization he once played for.
"I love it, I love wearing No. 5," Samuelsson said after a recent game in Syracuse. "It's honoring my father. I'm happy I was able to get that number."
On Monday, Samuelsson was recalled from the Baby Pens to the big club with injuries hitting Pittsburgh hard, with an NHL debut perhaps in store on tap for Samuelsson with the same team that his father played for as soon as Monday.
Unlike his father, Samuelsson has played his hockey in North America before turning pro, playing for Avon Old Farms and Boston College, along with a under-18 title in 2009 with USA Hockey.
Asked about the difference between growing up in the North American style of play versus the Swedish style — his brother Henrik, an Oilers draft pick, played over in Sweden for a stretch — Samuelsson said there are things that are emphasized on this side of the Atlantic.
"For sure, it's a totally different game," Samuelsson said. "Ice sheets are smaller, you have to be strong down low and be able to get the pucks to the forwards."
Samuelsson came into training camp in Pittsburgh this September behind a fairly long list of blueliners for the Penguins, and was sent back to the AHL, but his responsibilities have increased as the organization wants to see what he can do with more minutes.
"He's been very consistent," Wilkes-Barre coach John Hynes said of his play so far this season. "He had a very good main NHL training camp, and he's brought it down here, where he's played solid defensively, been smart with the puck, and he's been playing against the other team's top units, and a big role in the penalty kill. He's done a nice job."
For now, though, Samuelsson is happy with his progress so far.
"I think obviously, it's been progress," he said. "Pro hockey is not easy, and for me, it's taken its time, but I'm happy with the way gone on."