When Kjell Samuelsson watches his two sons play college hockey this year, it will be easy for him to keep close tabs on Flyers prospects Wade Allison and Ronnie Attard.
All four play for Western Michigan.
Samuelsson is the Flyers’ director of player development, and he is excited about Allison’s senior season. He raved about the determination the powerful right winger has shown during a grueling recovery from ACL surgery, which was performed on his right knee about 17 months ago.
“Wade did really well here,” Samuelsson said after the Flyers’ recently completed development camp in Voorhees. “He’s had a tough year and a half and it seems like it took a lot out of him, and now he’s happier and more focused on what he has to do. He’s going to go back and have a good year in his last year in school.”
Allison, selected by the Flyers in the second round of the 2016 draft, is listed as the organization’s No. 5 prospect by The Inquirer. He said his knee was “pretty sore” after competing in a camp scrimmage Saturday night. “I just put in four good skates in less than two days. It bothered me near the end and was starting to slow me down,” he said. “When it hurts and you’re tired, it’s just harder to do everything.”
That said, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound power forward called the five-day camp a success.
“This week, it held up pretty good, a lot better than I thought it was going to,” he said. “Now I’m going to go home, give it some rest, do some rehab, and hopefully heal it up some more so when I go back to training I feel pretty good and can compete even harder and be ready for the season.”
Allison was a candidate for the Hobey Baker award, given to the top player in college hockey, before he was injured. With a strong senior year at Western Michigan, he could sign an entry-level deal with the Flyers.
The free-spirited Allison kept the other Flyers prospects loose at camp.
“I like to have a good time. I like to enjoy myself,” he said. “… Keep it light. There’s no point frowning when you can be smiling.”
Attard, a right-handed defenseman, seemed to be smiling ever since he was drafted by the Flyers in the third round June 22. And for good reason. He was bypassed in the previous two drafts but kept improving. Playing as an overage 20-year-old in the USHL, he had 30 goals and 64 points in 48 games last season.
At camp, the 6-3, 208-pound Attard looked polished.
“The pace is obviously a split-second quicker, and it’s going to keep getting faster as I move higher into the game,” Attard said. “Just being out there with these guys was a great measurement on how my game is and how much it needs to grow.”
Attard, the USHL’s player of the year, will spend the summer improving his speed and shot, working out with his Western Michigan teammates four or five times a week, “and getting better every day. That what it’s going to take if I want to make it to this level,” he said.
One of the reasons he chose Western Michigan was that it was only two hours from his home.
“I’ve been playing 14 hours from home, so that’s kind of tough for my parents and extended family to come see [games],” he said. “They all are super supportive of me, so it’ll be nice to be close to those guys, and [coach] Andy Murray has been around the game a long time. I’m just thinking he’ll be able to teach me things I haven’t learned yet.”
He learned a lot from Samuelsson, a former defenseman who spent 14 years in the NHL, at development camp.
“His sons play at Western Michigan, so he’s kind of looking out for me and showing me the ropes a little bit,” Attard said.
Samuelsson’s sons are Lukas, a junior forward, and Mattias, a sophomore defenseman who was drafted in the second round (32nd overall) by Buffalo in 2018.
Forward Noah Cates, a fifth-round selection in 2017 who helped Minnesota-Duluth win the NCAA title last season, had an impressive camp.
“We talk about him every day," Kjell Samuelsson said, smiling. "We can’t stop bragging about him. He’s quietly done better and better every year. Anything we ask him to do, he’s doing it. The same thing in the World Juniors. He came in maybe as a bottom-half forward and he was playing first-line center in the end. He scored goals. He was on the ice when they’re protecting leads, killing penalties. He’s a very well-rounded hockey player.”