On Tuesday morning the Winnipeg Jets agreed to terms with University of Minnesota-Duluth defenceman Dylan Samberg on a three-year, entry-level NHL contract. The deal comes after some slight uneasiness, stemming from the 21-year-old’s decision to return to the NCHC for a third season, instead of turning pro after winning back-to-back NCAA championships.
“This pandemic thing put a halt to everything, but eventually we made contact with the Jets and thought it was time to move forward,” Samberg said Tuesday afternoon after officially putting pen to paper with Winnipeg.. “You think about that stuff. I felt like this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to move forward. I am obviously going to miss UMD. It was the college I dreamed of going to as a kid.”
GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and the Winnipeg Jets selected the Hermantown, MN product with the 43rd overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, and have watched him blossom into a reliable option on the back-end – a player that Jets management feels is ready to make the jump to the highest level of professional hockey. Samberg’s three-year contract, carrying a cap hit of $925K, will begin in the 2020-21 season.
Samberg, who is from the same Minnesota hometown as current Jets blueliner Neal Pionk, saw his numbers and production grow in each of his three seasons playing college hockey. After a one-goal, 13-point freshman campaign, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound defenceman put up seven goals and 19 points in 2018-19, before finishing this past shortened season with one goal and 21 points in 13 less games than his previous two seasons’ average. Samberg finished his Bulldogs career as a +44.
“It’s exciting for him and exciting for our team, for us,” defenceman Josh Morrissey said Tuesday morning on the Samberg signing. “I have only seen him play at the World Juniors a couple of years, but he is a big, strong defenceman. He’s had three really good years at school. He will be a great addition to our team.”
The mobile rearguard has also represented the United States internationally, skating for Team USA at both the 2018 and 2019 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships, where he put up one goal and six points, to go along with bronze and silver medals in back-to-back showings.
In a conference call Tuesday afternoon, Cheveldayoff hinted at Samberg’s development as being compared to Mark Schiefele’s, while also respecting Samberg’s decision to attempt a three-peat with UMD.
“We made a really strong pitch to try to convince him to turn pro,” Cheveldayoff said. “During development camps, Paul and the coaching staff were always frothing at the mouth to get their hands on him at the pro level.”