I’m starting to get the feeling Dillon Simpson is going to be a very good NHL player. He’s a senoir NCAA player at 20, meaning his big brain had him playing against men 10 years his senior when he was mid-teens. That fact perhaps muddied our view of this player, but now, at 20, the captain, the two-way horse defender, cannot be ignored by Oiler fans. This is a quality NHL prospect.
PREVIOUSLY NUMBER EIGHT ON THE WINTER LIST
- December 2004: D Matt Greene (481)
- December 2005: D Tom Gilbert (471)
- December 2006: L Alexei Mikhnov (2)
- December 2007: L Slava Trukhno (0)
- December 2008: C Chris VandeVelde (28)
- December 2009: D Taylor Chorney (61)
- December 2010: L Linus Omark (66)
- December 2011: L Curtis Hamilton (0)
- December 2012: D David Musil (0)
Two defensemen who slotted in at #8 a decade ago and nothing since. Omark, Hamilton and Musil still have time but we’re not looking at any impact players at this spot. For me, Simpson is a better prospect than most of the guys on this list—his draft number was likely hurt by the same things that kept him from appearing in the top 10—he was younger, had skating and physical issues compared to the opposition, and those things made it difficult to project him into the future.
I know a scout (eastern conference) who discussed the trio of Musil-Simpson-Gernat with me a year or so ago. He said Musil’s foot speed is going to impact him as a pro, Gernat’s size and speed will get him to the NHL (if he remains healthy) but his offense wasn’t so good we should expect him to be a 30-point player. He talked at length about Simpson and his development since draft day, about how impressive Simpson’s progress had been, about how well he played the game and made decisions. The kicker? I asked him about Gernat and Musil, the scout brought Simpson into the conversation. Interesting.
- 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.
- Red Line Report scout Max Giese: “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.”
Kirk 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.
POINTS BY DISCIPLINE, DILLON SIMPSON
|SIMPSON 2010-11||30, 1-6-7||30, 1-2-3||30, 0-0-0||30, 2-8-10|
|SIMPSON 2011-12||42, 1-6-7||42, 1-10-11||42, 0-0-0||42, 2-16-18|
|SIMPSON 2012-13||42, 2-8-10||42, 3-11-14||42, 0-0-0||42, 5-19-24|
|SIMPSON 2013-14||11, 0-2-2||11, 1-3-4||11, 0-0-0||11, 1-5-6|
This is a fascinating progression. In his first year, Simpson was a kid and the numbers reflect it—exactly 30% of his offense came from the powerplay. Last season, the man advantage was responsible for 58% of his point total, and this season it’s 66% so far—that’s not unusual for a defenseman getting plenty of power play time, but once again it shows how much he’s developed during his time in North Dakota.
If Simpson comes to the NHL, and has the skill level to play 5×4 minutes with Justin Schultz? Interesting scenario and suggests a wider range of skills than we’d been discussing in the past.
PREVIOUS TOP 20 RANKING
- Summer 2011: 24
- Winter 2011: 17
- Summer 2012: 14
- Winter 2012: 10
- Summer 2013: 10
- Winter 2013: 8
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING THIS SEASON
If you’re interested in finding out more about Dillon Simpson, Alan Hull’s interview is the first stop. Hull does an exceptional job of asking great questions and receiving excellent answers from a thoughtful young man.
Simpson: Well, for anyone who has followed me since before I was drafted, the draft notes likely all said that footspeed was something I need to improve, and so it’s something that I’ve really been working on over the last couple of years with my coaches and with the strength and conditioning coach. We’ve really tried to put a lot of emphasis on that part of my game and I think that so far this year it has been showing. I feel like I’m able to get myself up into the play a lot more. I feel much more confident in my footspeed in terms of being able to keep up with plays and close gaps. It’s certainly something I feel is improving and I’m going to continue working on it, so it’s definitely getting better.
Dillon Simpson has become a more complete player since his draft day, and it’s clear that the progress made has earned him a much better NHL shot than his draft day selection suggested in 2011. One key element: he can play defense, this isn’t an offense first player who can wheel and learn. This is a bona fide defenseman.
They have to sign him first and I imagine his agent is going to bring up progress and get some bonus dollars. The relationship between the Simpsons and the Oilers has been a close one over the years, so with a couple of concessions (like burning a year of entry level in 2013-14) one imagines they’ll get him signed to a contract.
Once that transaction is completed, it will be very interesting to see how long it takes Simpson to progress to the NHL. Last December, I ranked Simpson #10 on the winter list, and he trailed Justin Schultz, Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin, Martin Gernat and David Musil. This season, he’s #8 and trails Nurse, Klefbom, Marincin and Belov, but the truth is he’s joined the conversation in a very real way. The gap between Simpson and the best prospects in the system started closing 2011 fall and the footsteps are getting louder every season.
Dillon Simpson is a quality NHL prospect with something resembling a complete skill set. Full stop.