There are plenty of new additions on the ice at Steelheads training camp this week, players who hope they will be part of a Kelly Cup-winning formula for the Steelheads this year. Three of those players have already done a substantial amount of winning playing side-by-side, and they’ve gotten the band back together again in Boise.
From 2011 to 2014, Henrik Samuelsson, Mitch Moroz, and Cody Corbett all skated for the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Western Hockey League, rattling off one of the more successful runs for a junior hockey team in recent history. In three seasons, the trio won two WHL Championships and the 2014 Memorial Cup. Those three were driving forces on those championship teams, and now they have a chance to do it again in the pro ranks.
“We had a stellar three years together. I think we had 150 wins and we played a regular season’s worth of playoff games,” said Corbett, who played for a Kelly Cup with South Carolina last spring. “If that doesn’t show a winning team, then I don’t know what does.”
“Bringing the three of us here, when there’s a strong winning mentality in the locker room already, I think we have a good year in store.”
Their junior success did not go unnoticed. In the spring of 2012, two years before their Memorial Cup win, Moroz and Samuelsson were both taken in the NHL Draft, Samuelsson with the 27th overall pick to Arizona and Moroz five picks later to Edmonton. At the end of the 2014 season, Corbett signed an NHL deal with the Colorado Avalanche.
The three played the majority of the last three seasons in the American Hockey League. All three attended AHL camps last week, with Moroz and Corbett skating in Texas and Samuelsson on the ice with the Hartford Wolf Pack. A solid campaign in Idaho could see them earn more opportunities at the next level.
While nostalgia can be fun, their focus is certainly on the here and now.
“Things like that stick with you and you remember the guys you played with, but that page has turned for us,” said Moroz of their junior days. “We’ve all had a lot of growth in our first few years professionally, but there have been some growing pains with that. To come in here and join a good organization that is built on winning, we want to fit in right with that formula.”
Having friends in a new setting certainly can help that transition, and Corbett, Samuelsson, and Moroz are all roommates during training camp. The three were regularly in contact over the summer when choosing a new team for the 2017-18 season as well, with Corbett and Moroz deciding on Idaho in short order and then talking to Samuelsson as the summer progressed.
“I had some great talks with (Coach Graham) during the summer,” said Moroz. “We talked about what it would mean to come in and have a fresh start and get a good opportunity. It was about getting into a winning system and getting back to the things that made me successful to get to the professional ranks.”
“Coach Graham was a big part of it, and so were Mitch and Corbs,” added Samuelsson, who was announced in late September. “The success the Steelheads have had continuously over the last 20 years makes it easy to pick this team.”
The link between Moroz and Samuelsson does extend beyond their junior days. In addition to being linemates in junior and being drafted just a few names apart, the two players were actually traded for each other last season when the Oilers sent Moroz to Arizona and Samuelsson went the other way to Edmonton, both staying with the AHL clubs. The two talked about it at the time as they swapped cities.
Now they’re linemates again, skating in Wednesday’s practice on either side of Jefferson Dahl.
“I think having been apart for three years, we’ll have to get used to it again,” laughed Samuelsson. “But we played together really well the year we won the Memorial Cup. I’m sure we’ll find that chemistry, and Dahl is a hell of a player. It’ll be great playing with him too.”
Corbett also feels the up-tempo system Neil Graham is putting forth will put him in a good position to succeed.
“I love to get up in the rush and get shots on net. I’m the fourth guy in the zone all the time and I get up in the play. That’s my style of hockey,” said Corbett. “All I have to do is take care of my own end and the rest will come with the game he has planned for us.”
After three years apart, three friends and three important figures for the Steelheads’ roster are picking up where they left off. The last time they were teammates, they paraded around the ice at Budweiser Gardens in London, Ontario with a trophy over their heads.
The Steelheads would be thrilled to see the trio passing around a different trophy in June.