Dillon Simpson was drafted the same weekend as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and that means this season is No. 5 after draft. This blog has long held the position that you have to wait five years after a draft to properly assess it. In the case of Dillon Simpson, it is fair to say we are still compiling data.
PREVIOUSLY NO. 18 ON THE WINTER LIST
- December 2004: L Jani Rita (36) (GM: Glen Sather)
- December 2005: G Jeff Deslauriers (62) (GM: Kevin Lowe)
- December 2006: D Mathieu Roy (66) (GM: Kevin Lowe)
- December 2007: C Chris VandeVelde (152) (GM: Kevin Lowe)
- December 2008: L Teemu Hartikainen (52) (GM: Kevin Lowe)
- December 2009: R Colin McDonald (145) (GM: Kevin Lowe)
- December 2010: D Brandon Davidson (35) (GM: Steve Tambellini)
- December 2011: L Phil Cornet (2) (GM: Kevin Lowe)
- December 2012: D Taylor Fedun (11) (via free agency, GM Steve Tambellini)
- December 2013: L Luke Gazdic (130) (via waivers, GM Steve Tambellini)
- December 2014: L Mitchell Moroz (0) (GM: Steve Tambellini)
Interesting that two of the three men who made it to 100 NHL games are from the college ranks, like Simpson. Slow developing college men drafted by the Oilers often end up playing for other NHL teams, and you can probably accuse the organization of a lack of patience—but let’s remember we are talking depth players at best. Brandon Davidson should be a lock to pass 100 games and eventually rank as the best player on this list.
WHAT THEY SAID ON DRAFT DAY
- 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.
PREVIOUSLY ON THE TOP 20
- Summer 2011: 24
- Winter 2011: 17
- Summer 2012: 14
- Winter 2012: 10
- Summer 2013: 10f
- Winter 2013: 8
- Summer 2014: 7
- Winter 2014: 8
- Summer 2015: 13
- Winter 2015: 18
Simpson is among a large group of defensemen being overrun by the sheer volume of selections dedictated to the position from 2011 to this summer. In those drafts, 13 of 38 (34%) of the markers were spent on blue, and the team has been aggressive via trade and free agency to address defense. Among the top 20 players I have discussed to this point, nine (of 18) are defensemen. I imagine Peter Chiarelli will cull the herd this summer.
- Lowetide blog: 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. Source
- Dillon Simpson: ”I dislocated my shoulder and tore my labrum and another ligament, so it was a tough break for me. A summer of hard work — you don’t want to say for nothing but to hurt yourself the second day of camp is always tough.” Source
- Jonathan Willis, Oilers Nation: Pros: He’s an intelligent, well-rounded defenceman who can do a little bit of everything. Cons: He lacks a standout quality and needs to get noticed. Source
- The Hockey News: Has a very projectable frame and solid puck-moving skills (especially at lower levels). Also has good pedigree as the son of former NHL sniper Craig Simpson. Source
- Tyler Thomson: Simpson could challenge for a job as early as next season but it remains more realistic that he his at least two years from developing into an NHL-ready defenceman. Source
Simpson’s injury this fall meant he was left behind and the numbers (16GP, 0-3-3 -5) reflect it. Among the AHL group, I feel he is ‘in the range’ with Joey Laleggia, Jordan Oesterle and David Musil. Each player has a unique skill set, and the reason I have always been bullish on Simpson is because he is a cerebral player. He is a good shot blocker, can pass the puck well and clearly has some pedigree as an athlete. This season has been a struggle, and his fall in the rankings acknowledges it. That said, there is a prospect here and I think we can use the journey of Brandon Davidson as a cautionary tale in making the call on him too early—even after year five post draft.
THE 2011 DRAFT
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, No. 1 overall. A wonderful young player who has already spent years playing against the best opposition in the game. Graduated.
- Oscar Klefbom, No. 19 overall. Top 4D with close to complete skill set. His recent injury drove home his substantial value. Graduated.
- David Musil, No. 31 overall. Smart D, foot speed is a problem and now Reinhart blocks him. A candidate the Winter Top 20.
- Samu Perhonen, No. 63 overall. Big goalie back in Finland. No longer in organization.
- Travis Ewanyk, No. 74 overall. Tough as nails checking C now in Ottawa organization.
- Dillon Simpson, No. 92 overall. Defensive D who is an expert shot blocker and a good decision maker. Lacks the kind of offensive ability that will allow him to play that role in the NHL, so we are looking at a two-way or defensive defenseman. No. 18 prospect Winter Top 20.
- Tobias Rieder, No. 114 overall. Scouting home run, he’s in the NHL. No longer in organization.
- Martin Gernat, No. 122 overall. Appears to be in the final year with the organization. Not a Candidate at this time for Winter Top 20.
- Laurent Brossoit, No. 164 overall. Flames draft pick acquired in Ladislav Smid salary dump.Has progressed very well as an Oilers prospect. Currently injured. No. 6 prospect, Winter Top 20.
- Frans Tuohimaa, No. 182 overall. Playing well in the Swedish second tier league. No longer in organization.
- Iiro Pakarinen, No. 184 overall. The Panthers drafted but did not sign him, and Pakarinen was plucked by Edmonton for only money. He is 44 games into his NHL career and has a nice range of skills. He has no strong connection to Peter Chiarelli so could be playing his final games in this league, but I like his potential a lot. No. 10 prospect, Winter Top 20.