Dillon Simpson learns his lessons. If you go back through his scouting reports level by level, things always begin a little rocky and by year two there’s a sense of direction and a more significant role.
DRAFT DAY DOWNERS
- Red Line: Stay at home defencemen with savvy and size. 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. 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.
This was a 17-year-old defenseman playing in the NCAA—a rare item. Red Line in my estimation are hard markers—if this was my son’s scouting report the air would be turned blue—but they’re fair, and the positives about Simpson (gap control etc) have more iron in them because there’s balance in the report. There’s some tough verbal in there, but also an idea that a player might be there. What more can you expect at No. 92 overall?
- Coach Dave Hakstol: “He’s only 20 years old, we have freshmen older than him. But it’s really not about the date on your birth certificate, it’s about your level of maturity and your life experiences, your mindset and your ability to be consistent and accountable and do things the right way. I think Dillon is at the highest level of those areas.”
That’s a fantastic report card from a universally respected coach. That kind of recommendation is top drawer.
LAST SPRING IN OKC
- Bruce McCurdy from April 2014: Overall I found myself more impressed with Simpson’s game than with his physical skills. His innate understanding of where to find the “good ice”, to recognize and execute the simple play, and to read opposition threats all scored high. The defender prides himself on his ability to stay out of the penalty box, having taken just 48 penalty minutes in his four years at UND. Still, there’s a lack of physical bite to his game which is bound to alienate a portion of the fanbase should he make it as far as the NHL.”
McCurdy’s a fine observer of the game, and I think his view of Simpson at that time is important—especially as a scene setter for Simpson’s future. There’s a trend in Simpson’s progression:
- First year (often playing against much older competition) observations talk about overall game, cerebral game, overall ability to play at pace.
- Second year (often while moving up the depth chart) observations talk about increased maturity and handling all sitations.
Simpson had some early struggles in his debut AHL season but the reports had positives sprinkled in (another trend) from the start.
- Neal Livingston, Tend The Farm early 2014-15: Started solid, but with AHL forwards progressing, and teams gelling, he’s struggled. Has a tendency to be stuck in a puck moving / sturdy defender role. In the end he does neither well – too soft, and not good enough with the puck. Smart player, though, and in time could be a bit more capable (and given better minutes).
- Eric Rodgers, Tend the Farm early 2014-15: Quite good in my opinion. Has had a few mistakes, but nothing horrible. Is usually strong in the D-zone, rarely out of position.
- Question to Eric Rodgers on the Lowdown August 2015: ‘Which players do you see as having the best chance to be NHL players?” Rodgers named Bogdan Yakimov, Jordan Oesterle, Brandon Davidson and Dillon Simpson.
In an Oilers prospect universe that includes insane talents, it’s easy to overlook the steady progress of Dillon Simpson. I love watching his progress, because it tells me a lot about the player. Smart, learns his lessons, and when he takes on more responsibility the coach isn’t forced to take it back. One thing I’ve learned over time: In life, you bet on those guys every time. Overcoming obstacles is a big part of any endeavor and learning how to do it is damn near everything.