There was a lot of interest around defenseman Dylan Samberg at the draft combine. The Minnesota high schooler interviewed with 26 different teams and backed up the buzz by performing well in several of the physical tests, ranking top-25 among more than 100 competitors.

But the real fun comes in Samberg’s potential, because scouts believe he is only scratching the surface.

“I love the kid,” said one scout. “He’s a 10-year NHLer for sure. Size, reach and plays with an aggressive mindset. He’s an effective skater, but not a pretty skater. Once he’s in flight, though, he looks like Bret Hedican.”

In Minnesota, the state’s vaunted high school tournament is broken up into two classes. The ‘A’ class is for smaller schools and the ‘AA’ class is for bigger institutions. Smaller schools can jump up to ‘AA’ but bigger schools cannot go down to ‘A.’

For years now, the Hermantown Hawks have been the elite program amongst the smaller ‘A’ schools. But as good as the Duluth-area school was, they couldn’t close the deal. The Hawks agonizingly lost the state final six straight times, from 2010 through 2015.

Thanks to a rising cohort of players including Samberg and Minnesota State commit Ryan Sandelin, however, that all changed. The Hawks have now won back-to-back titles, the second of which came in the most dramatic fashion possible.

Slogging through the bracket and encountering stiffer resistance than expected, the Hawks once again found themselves in a dogfight in the final. Playing Cinderella was Monticello/Annandale/Maple Lake, a team that needed three different schools to populate its squad. But the Moose were strong and took the Hawks to double overtime. Even when it appeared that Hermantown had won it, the goal was called off for goalie interference, forcing the Hawks to pick all their gloves and sticks off the ice and get back to work. Then, with less than 20 seconds left in the second OT period, Samberg was the hero on a point shot, clinching the title for real. For a Hermantown lifer, it was pretty sweet.