CHICAGO, IL - Top prospect Dylan Samberg met with the Winnipeg Jets more than any other team leading up to the 2017 NHL Draft, and upon arrival in west-end Chicago bright and early Saturday morning, there was one more - however spontaneous - gathering in store.
It was then in that moment he knew what was about to happen, and how his life was about to change.
"I had a good feeling when I was around them. I actually saw one of their scouts this morning and he said good luck, so that must have been a sign," the 18-year-old said after his lifelong dream became reality.
Less than 45 minutes after that brief, backstage encounter, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound defenceman was drafted by the Jets in the second round, 43rd overall, to begin Rounds 2 through 7.
"Last time I talked to them was during the Combine and I had a good interview with them. It seemed like they run a really good organization, so I'm excited to get things underway," Samberg said.
"At first I had that reaction where I was like, 'Is that me?' It's definitely an honour to be selected by a great organization like Winnipeg. I'm just really excited to see what my future holds and hopefully I'll get to wear the Winnipeg jersey some day."
Video: DRAFT | Samberg Scrum
Samberg was the first of four defencemen drafted by the Jets on this day - all of whom have similar traits and project well as possible impact players in the modern-day game.
"Guys that can skate was certainly the theme for us," General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said.
"There's going to be a little bit of a development path there, but I think we've got something really good and it was a great opportunity to draft him."
Samberg, a calm-under-pressure puck-moving defenceman, had 28 points (10G, 18A) in 25 games with Hermantown High School this past year, and will take the next step in his development this fall when he suits up for the hometown University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs.
"Maybe two or three years," he said when asked when he thinks he'll be ready for prime-time duty. "I'd definitely like to get a degree in college and have something to fall back on, but if I feel like I'm ready to move on and I'm confident in my game, I'll definitely look into it."
Mark Hillier, the Jet's Director of Amateur Scouting, said Samberg was a possibility to go late in the first round. That he was available, still, when it was Winnipeg's turn 13 picks into Round 2 means the Jets were lucky enough to claim one of the most underrated players in the draft.
"At least off our list, you started to see a lot of defencemen get taken in the draft and it's a very tough position to have depth because it develops at a very slow rate. (But) when they fall into your spots that you're drafting and you feel comfortable in taking them, you do it," Cheveldayoff said.
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com