The Winnipeg Jets are defense-heavy, but poor defensively. They have a stable of defensemen both in the NHL and in the minors able to step up and play at this level, but the analytics suggest that as a team they are not very good at preventing goals. The Jets’ defensive system is broken and needs an overhaul…which is a whole other story. This space is reserved for one player you should see in a Jets uniform for the entirety of the 2022-23 season, Dylan Samberg.
Samberg Promises to be a Defense-First NHL Blueliner
Dylan Samberg is a 6-foot-3, 190-pound defense-first defender who was drafted by the Jets in the second round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. If there are new faces on the Jets’ blue line next season, he will be one of the first ones to grab a spot. The left-hand shot, who calls Hermantown, Minnesota home, plays with a lot of physicality and a serious edge to his game. In 32 games this season with the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League (AHL), he has scored zero goals with 12 assists and has a plus/minus rating of plus-10, which illustrates his priority of preventing goals as opposed to scoring them.
Yet it’s the intangibles that make Samberg a name people will take note of next year. He is big, he clears the front of the net consistently and moves the puck with efficiency. He plays the man very well, boxes out in the scoring area and uses his size and strength to his advantage. He is a strong presence in the defensive zone, and if there is a glaring weakness the Jets have demonstrated this season, it’s the fact they don’t protect the front of the net very well. Samberg could be a significant presence for them in this area and bring some stability to where it certainly is needed.
Samberg has spent the past few seasons developing in the AHL with the Moose and like a lot of Jets prospects, has paid his dues and improved his game at that level; but he is now NHL ready. After the Jets’ season wraps up, he will return to the Moose, who are in a position to make a run at the Calder Cup and he will play a large role in that push to a championship.
He also brings a winning pedigree with his game as he has been a winner at every level he has played at. He was part of back-to-back Minnesota High School State Championships with Hermantown, then followed that up with back-to-back championship seasons in the NCAA with the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He also won a bronze and a silver medal with Team USA at the World Junior Hockey Championships in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
Samberg Impressive in Return to the NHL
Last week Samberg was recalled to the Jets for what looks to be the remainder of the season and knows not to get ahead of himself in this latest stint with the parent club. “It’s very exciting,” Samberg said. “But I have to stick to my game and try not to focus on what other players are doing. Just focus on what I can do to help the team” (from ‘Samberg relishes second opportunity with Jets’, Winnipeg Sun, 4/8/22).
He made his debut in January as the Jets were fighting injuries and COVID issues. He played in six straight games with them and looked like he belonged in an NHL uniform. He showed a calm and stable presence on the blue line during his initial foray into the league and was impressive in doing so.
Samberg was then returned to the Moose until last week when he was again recalled to the Jets and was inserted into the lineup versus the Colorado Avalanche. He did not look out of place against the best team in the Western Conference and simply put, he did not make any major mistakes in what some called the Jets’ best 60-minute effort of the season.
Samberg’s incredible poise carried him through both road games the Jets had this week against the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens, where he had a major hit in the former and a pair of assists in the latter.
Dylan Samberg, who looks like an NHL regular every time he takes the ice, has assists on both #NHLJets goals tonight.— Mike McIntyre (@mikemcintyrewpg) April 12, 2022
The kid can play.
If it weren’t for a significant ankle injury on the first day of training camp that took him the better part of two months to fully recover from, he may have been in a Jets uniform sooner than January. He has already surpassed Logan Stanley on the depth chart, who has been mistake-prone this season and maybe even Moose teammate Ville Heinola, who also has had some blunders when he’s been called up to the team.
I know it’s a small sample size of nine NHL games to date, but Samberg’s demeanour and attention to detail in the defensive zone have been impressive. His poise and precise approach to the game are certainly needed by the Jets on their blue line. They are going to have to move someone from the defensive unit over the summer, maybe more than one. Regardless, he should be on the Jets’ opening night roster in 2022-23. He deserves it and he’s definitely ready to make the transition to the NHL full time.
Keith Forsyth is a freelance writer and sports junkie from rural Manitoba who is covering the Winnipeg Jets for The Hockey Writers. Keith loves all sports and is a huge fan of the NFL (Skol Vikings… if you know, you know) and the Montreal Expos (they’re coming back… you watch!). He recently retired from the education world teaching high school, where his greatest passion was coaching young athletes. He brings that same logical, behind the bench type of approach to you as he delivers an insightful look into the NHL and specifically the Jets. For interview requests or content info, follow Keith on Twitter or his social media accounts. They appear under his photo on articles like this one.