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Samberg's size speaking volumes for Jets

Defenseman prospect aims to improve game in second season with NCAA champion Minnesota Duluth

by Scott Billeck / NHL.com Correspondent

WINNIPEG -- Dylan Samberg is pretty good at standing out, thanks to his 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame. That helped get the 19-year-old defenseman prospect noticed by the Winnipeg Jets, who selected him in the second round (No. 43) of the 2017 NHL Draft.

Samberg has used his size to his advantage until now, but knows he needs to take it a step further if he's going to play in the NHL at some point.

"Obviously, getting stronger is always a big thing," Samberg said at Jets development camp in June. "But for me, it will be to work on my feet and my agility, becoming quicker. I've got to work on my first pass and everything -- and make sure that it's all crisp.

 

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"I'm just trying to get better and trying to find the things that I need to work [on], especially throughout this summer … because I've got to follow it up with another good year."

Samberg didn't always have the physical card to play; he grew seven inches during his sophomore season in high school and began to craft his game around his newfound stature.

"I always used to be a smaller guy, but I always liked throwing my body around," he said. "When I finally added the size on it kind of helped because I could actually knock guys off the puck instead of being the smaller guy and bouncing right off. It definitely helps your game when you're a bigger guy out there. It's an advantage."

The Jets acknowledge that's one factor they hope Samberg will bring to the NHL down the road.

"He has that ability to play a lot of different ways," general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said. "Certainly, he can play a hard game and a physical game with his size. The things that really draw us to him are his ability, his hockey sense and his skating."

Samberg is preparing for his second season at the University of Minnesota Duluth, where he had 13 points (one goal, 12 assists) in 42 games, helping UMD win the NCAA championship. He also won a bronze medal with the United States at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship.

He said playing for the U.S. gave him addition confidence in his game.

"The first half of the year was a little slow, just trying to get used to things," Samberg said. "It was a lot different speed, the guys were a lot bigger than in high school. I went to world juniors halfway through the year and I feel like that kind of jump [started] my game and I found my confidence. When I came back to college after that, I kind of rolled with that."

The Jets are hopeful Samberg can take his game to the next level this season.

"He's going to be given even more of a role there (at Minnesota Duluth) in all aspects of the game," Cheveldayoff said. "He's the type of guy that can really excel in today's game because he can get back to a puck, he's big, he's got a good stick, he can move a puck. He's the type of guy that there's a lot of excitement about."

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