What type of player are the Jets getting in Dylan Samberg?
Jets prospect Dylan Samberg can be labeled as a winner.
In his three seasons at the University of Minnesota Duluth, Samberg won national championships as a Freshman and Sophomore. The Bulldogs were gearing up for a threepeat in 2020 when COVID struck, canceling the remainder of their season.
The native of Hermantown, Minnesota also represented Team USA at both the 2018 and 2019 World Junior Championships, winning bronze in one and silver in the other.
With Samberg, it’s been a case of the bigger the stage, the better he’s played.
“Like anything experience helps, in addition to what kind of experience that is, too. That’s the thing with him, he’s played in almost every big stage you can up to this point. That was tremendously helpful for him,” Minnesota Duluth assistant coach Adam Krause told HockeyBuzz.
“The bigger the game, almost the better he got. Proving it through two National Championships and I thought he had great World Junior Championships. Really wasn’t a situation where he was shaken by it because he’d had played every stage and that’s how he was as a person, too.”
From what Krause had to say about the 21-year old Samberg, he’s the type of person and player both on and off the ice any franchise would want to employee.
“Off the ice, an awesome kid. He has a really good sense of humor, he’s kind of known as that guy on our team, kind of the class clown. He’s always putting a smile on your face, he’s always a kid I love to run into around the rink and chat a little bit with. Great kid, local kid, very respectable, very humble,” said Krause.
“Just an extremely steady defenseman, extremely strong skater, big body, cannon of a shot, thought the game well. Kind of very steady game, it doesn’t look like he was working very hard, one of those guys like a Ryan Suter type, plays 30 minutes and hardly breaks a sweat, pretty effortless."
The scouting report on Samberg since he joined the program at Duluth, through his draft year and now into his first season of professional hockey has pretty much remained consistent.
He’s been known as a big bodied, steady defenseman who plays physical and disciplined. He’s disruptive with his sick and plays the game responsibly. But the knock on his game has always been from an offensive standpoint.
Can he consistently get pucks through? Is his zone-exit game strong enough? Does he have the offensive mindset to play consistent power play minutes?
Coach Krause addressed some of those concerns.
“Something I think might surprise people at the next level is the ability he had to get shots through, his quick release on the point, doesn’t need much time to get pucks to the net and able to find guys off to the side of the net. I think that’s going to come even more as he gets to high levels and something I think will only improve,” said Krause. “His skating ability allowed him to get up the ice, his shot allowed him to score when he was given some space.”
Minnesota Duluth had one of the nations better power play setups during Samberg’s time at Duluth, but Samberg never got much of an opportunity to run the team’s top unit. That wasn’t because he couldn’t handle the job or didn’t have the talent, it was because Samberg was stuck behind Scott Perunovich, the 2020 Hobey Baker Award winner.
“His time here at Duluth there happened to be a player by the name of Scott Perunovich. An extremely gifted offensive guy,” said Krause. “That was the guy that was running our power play, getting a majority of the minutes on the power play and from that side of things, maybe Dylan took a back seat.”
On April 7, nearly a month after the NCAA pulled the plug on the 2019-20 season, Samberg signed a three-year entry level contract with the Jets. He was Winnipeg’s second round pick in 2017.
After a successful sophomore season at Duluth, and a second consecutive National Championship, Samberg then nearly signed with the Jets. Instead, he remained at school in hopes of doing what no Division 1 college hockey team has done since Michigan in 1953: win three straight titles.
“He had the opportunity to sign after his sophomore year and he chose to come back. That was something that as a staff we knew was probably going to happen with the possibility of losing him after two years,” said Krause. “So to get him for that third year was somewhat of a bonus as a staff.”
Although Samberg was strongly considering signing with the Jets following his second collegiate season, forgoing his senior year to chase his dream of one day making it to the NHL was not an easy choice.
Being left with so many “what if” scenarios certainly weighed heavily on Samberg when he had to decide whether to sign with the Jets. After COVID took away his chance at a threepeat, returning to campus for his senior year for one more shot at a National Championship would have been an understandable decision.
“Obviously I think there’s ‘what if we could have won that next one’ or what if he had come back, what can you do? But the thing with those guys is they had the opportunity to kind of feel that twice and were very fortunate to be able to do it twice,” said Krause. “I think if you stay at a level that isn’t pushing you as much as it should on a daily basis, then I think it’s time to go. That kind of was what it was for him.”
Whenever training camps for the 2020-21 season begin, Samberg is going to be given every opportunity to make the Jets opening night roster, making the jump directly to the NHL from the NCAA.
The Jets have openings on their blue line and Samberg certainly can earn himself an NHL job out of the gate.
But what gives Samberg the edge over the defensemen he will be competing with for a starting gig?
“I think it starts with like I said, his skating ability. The way the game is going nowadays, they have a mobile skating defenseman, kind of a pass first defenseman mentality. I think that’s going to put him in the driver’s seat for sure,” said Krause. “He knows that he’s going to have to go to camp and play that consistent game and ensure there is no days off.”.
Samberg’s potential of developing into a top-four defenseman is within reach, but if Samberg is to make the Jets roster this coming season, it may be in a third pairing role.
And that’s just fine.
Samberg has the tools to succeed at the next level. It’s going to come down to a matter of whether or not he can put it all together on a consistent basis.
“I think as you get to higher levels that margin obviously closes a little bit. He has all the tools to do it and knows what he has to do and it’s all about executing that. That’s the challenge at that highest level,” said Krause.
“A lot of those guys are talented, but who can do it every day? That’s something he will need to learn to do and we are all confident that he can do that. Just being able to have that physical presence that he has, big body that can skate, I think he’s going to have a lot of success at that next level.”
The Jets need help on their blue line and getting that help from within would be ideal. The door is open for Samberg to be that help, the rest is going to be up to him.
“He’s ready to move on as a player and get the next challenge,” said Krause. “I think he’ll be great.”