JANESVILLE, WI — Former Jets forward and recent Western Michigan Bronco Dawson DiPietro became the second former Jet to sign an NHL contract Monday morning, inking a one-year, entry-level deal with the Buffalo Sabres, beginning in 2020-21.
The Jets acquired DiPietro (5-11/185) in January 2016 from the Austin Bruins. The Medina, Ohio, native was an immediate injection of skill and leadership for the Jets. DiPietro’s 24 points in the team’s final 29 games helped the Jets to a playoff berth. In March of 2016, DiPietro announced his commitment to Western Michigan University, where he recently finished his four-year, 105-game career.
Janesvillejets.com caught up with DiPietro Tuesday afternoon.
janesvillejets.com: Easiest question first. Something you’ve been dreaming of your entire life finally comes true. What’s going through the mind of Dawson DiPietro when he signs his first NHL contract?
Dawson DiPietro: I feel extremely excited for the opportunity at hand. This is obviously something that I have been working for my entire life, but now the real work begins as I chase a new dream of becoming a great pro.
JJ: What does it mean to you as an NAHL grad to have accomplished something like this?
DD: I feel grateful to have played in a great league and have seen many great players come from the NAHL and have tremendous hockey careers. It is humbling to remember where you came from and the opportunity that the NAHL gave me, especially the Janesville Jets.
JJ: One of the storylines of the Jets’ 2015-16 campaign was the team trading for a veteran, top-line scorer in January named Dawson DiPietro. You came on hot with five points in your first four games, and earned your Division I commitment as a Jet. When you think back on your time in Janesville, what sticks out to you?
DD: Bill McCoshen and head coach Joe Dibble welcomed a kid who walked into the rink on gameday with his hockey equipment in a black garbage bag. I still keep in touch with the players from that team as it was one of the tightest-knit teams I’ve ever been around. Janesville is a great community and one of the best hockey towns I have ever played in. It’s a top-notch organization and it shows with their player advancement.
JJ: Which Jets teammates are you still in touch with?
DD: Like I said, I still talk to them all. We still have a GroupMe that gets posted in once in a while. After the information was put out, almost every one of my teammates reached out in their own way to congratulate me. That shows how close we were.
JJ: Yours was the second ever NHL contract signed by a former Jet, after Grant Hutton signed with the Islanders around this time last year. Each of you put in the work during your college career to earn these opportunities, and this June the Jets could see their fourth player selected in an NHL Draft. Eleven years ago, this organization’s dream was about Division I scholarships, and putting kids in the NHL was pie-in-the-sky optimism. Now it’s become a reality, and you’re a big part of that. What does that mean to Dawson DiPietro?
DD: It shows that the Janesville Jets are a top organization in the NAHL with top-notch people working for them. They mold their players and show them how to become men at a critical age in life. The success that the Jets have seen of recent is a testament to how they treat their players and prepare them for the next level.
JJ: There’s obviously no shortage of young talent in the Sabres’ organization. What excites you about becoming a Buffalo Sabre?
DD: The young talent is one of the most exciting things about the Buffalo Sabres’ organization. They have been able to stockpile young talent with a goal of growing together. I am ready to get to work and prove myself, which is exactly what I have had to do everywhere I have played. I wouldn’t want it any other way.