There was no way the Winnipeg Jets could leave this draft without addressing the glaring deficiencies on the left side of their blue line. Defence is the weakest part of their prospect pipeline, but the left is especially barren.
Taking Finnish winger Kristian Vesalainen at 24th overall, while reasonable, didn’t address that need, raising the eyebrows of some in the Jets’ market. Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff didn’t fare much better when he announced they’d selected United States High School defenceman, Dylan Samberg. He’s a left-shot rearguard with size at 6’3″, but the low level of competition makes gauging his play a challenging exercise, especially from afar.
The Jets weren’t dismayed, and it doesn’t sound like Samberg’s too focused on that element of his evaluation either. When asked about the decision to play high school, Samberg’s logic was sound.
“I broke my ankle in my sophomore year, so it felt like my senior year was my second year of high school” Samberg told Jets Nation. “I wanted to go back to play with my friends and get the captaincy to see how I’d fit with that. It was definitely a good decision; I don’t have any regrets [about] it. I got the opportunity to go down to Waterloo at the end of the season, and [Samberg’s high school team] fortunate enough to win the state championship this year. All in all, it was a good year.”
Samberg admitted to a continuing dialogue between his camp and the Jets throughout the season. Talks intensified at the NHL Scouting Combine. Though Samberg tried to keep the chatter about his draft locale to the peripheries, he started to get the sense at this point that he could go as high as 43rd overall.
“Last time I saw [the Jets] was at the combine” Samberg told Jets Nation. “They’re a good group of guys there. I had a good interview with them. It seems like they run a really good organization there, so I’m excited to get that under way”
“I knew there was some teams that talked to me a lot more and had [better] possibilities in some areas”. Samberg added. “I kind of thought about it, and there was a definite chance to go here and I did”.
The qualities that made Samberg so impressive a candidate in his estimation are his two-way game as well as his ability to clear the crease and make life difficult for the opposition forwards. Another element Samberg felt the Jets were attracted by were his qualities as a leader. Samberg captained his high school team to a state championship, after all.
“I feel like I have good character and I’m a good hard-working kid” Samberg said. “I feel like that’s the type of organization that I would fit in best and I’m glad to be a Winnipeg Jet.”
A Minnesota product, (Samberg is committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth for next season) Samberg sees the sum of these parts as comparing favourably to Wild defenceman Marco Scandella.
“I feel like Marco Scandella is someone I definitely model my game after” Samberg told Jets Nation. “I play a strong defensive game. I’m a big, physical puck-moving defenceman. I keep guys to the outside – don’t let them get around [me].”
The comparison is apt. If Samberg makes the show, it won’t be gaudy point totals that catch your attention. Getting there is going to take time, though. Samberg sees the value in an education and sounds dedicated to seeing it through.
“I’m Maybe two or three years [away from playing in the NHL]” Samberg admitted. “I’d definitely like to get a degree in college as something to fall back on. If I’m ready to move on with my game and I’m confident about that, though, I’ll definitely look into it”.
If Samberg can get to that point, something tells me he’s going to be worth the wait.