#17 Prospect: Dillon Simpson

Winter 2011: #17
Summer 2011: NR

Redline: Stay at home defencemen with savvy and size. Son of former longtime NHL’er Craig Simpson has very good hockey sense and understands game situations instinctively. Had trouble getting qualilty icetime as a 17-year-old true freshman on deep, veteran defence corps of top collegiate program, but did show steady progress adjusting to the pace of play against older, stronger opponents. Rarely saw the ice on either special teams units. Sluggish skater with a short stride, but shows good gap control and lateral mobility. Tentative to do anything offensively and always has one foot back on defence. Doesn’t see the ice well and hurries to get the puck off his stick. Makes sharp defensive reads and is rarely out of position. Struggled 1-on-1 in the corners and down log against more physically developed forwards. 

More Redline: “He’s a smart player defensively, rarely out of position; but he’s a pretty bad skater and he doesn’t have any poise moving the puck. He’s a slushy skater with a short and sluggish stride. His hands are stiff, he struggles to put passes on the tape and he always hurries to get the puck off of his stick. He’s getting the ice time right now because of North Dakota’s injuries.”

ISS: Simpson is an all-around effective and smart defenseman who contributes in both ends of the ice while competing at a high level. He shows flashes of offensive productivity and potential. He has very good stride and at times when he is moving he almost looks like he isn’t working that hard, but with closer scrutiny, you realize he is actually a very effortless skater, with a very natural and efficient stride. He has very good range defensively, taking away time and space very efficiently. He always seems to maintain solid defensive positioning. Father Craig played 10 years in the NHL with Pittsburgh, Edmonton and Buffalo, and won two Stanley Cups with the Oilers.

Simpson has tremendous pedigree but his scouting reports were conflicting. Redline said he was a stay-at-home type and a “slushy” skater but ISS was more positive toward the player. Part of it may have been that Simpson was among the youngest NCAA players a year ago (17 when he started) and elevated his schooling as to be ready for UND last fall.
I suspect that’s an unusal item for a hockey player.
For me, the best report came from Kirk Luedeke of Bruins Draft Watch, who often seemed to put everything together during his two year run with BDW.
Luedeke: A bit of a disappointing season for a player scouts had some real high hopes for coming in. The son of former NHL forward and HNIC analyst Craig Simpson (and nephew of television reporter Christine Simpson) has decent size at 6-1, 195. He scored 2 goals and 10 points in 30 games as a freshman and wasn’t overly involved in the offensive scheme/didn’t get a lot of ice time. He’s a work in progress who has some soft hands and hockey sense, but isn’t a great skater. He’s slow out of the blocks and needs to work on his stride to get the most out of his movement. Scouts see intriguing elements of his game, but after 12 goals and 41 points last year with Spruce Grove of the AJHL, more of an impact was expected from him- he did not deliver. This is not to say Simpson isn’t a legitimate NHL prospect- he is. He grew up around the game and has the natural athleticism to be a player, but this season showed that it is going to take time and he’d require a leap of faith for a team to draft him in the first two rounds.
  • Age 17: 27, 2-8-10 +11 
  • Age 18: 16, 0-7-7 +3
Simpson was 1-2-3 on the PP a year ago and is already 0-6-6 this season with the man advantage. Simpson has 17 blocked shots according to the UND site so far this season. but there is no blocked shot data available from a year ago.
In slotting Simpson at #17, I had to feel he had more upside than the remaining forwards under consideration (Martindale, Vande Velde, Rajala, Cornet, House, Tremblay) and was clear of what remains a pretty nice group of defensemen (Plante, Bigos, injured Fedun) plus the goalie.
Simpson wins the day based on age–he’s playing in a league that featured men 7 years his senior one year ago–his pedigree and improvement year over year. His increased involvement on the PP for instance is another gear that would not have been evident in scouting him a year ago.
Either way, Dillon Simpson makes the list. If I had to guess about his future, I’d suggest his arrows are pointing in a good direction.

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