If the measure of a man is how far he travels from the place he began, Dillon Simpson is already a smashing success. From the day he was drafted in 2011, Simpson has improved a little or a lot in each season, finally arriving in the NHL for a cup of coffee last season. When you consider what was being written about him six years ago, it’s impressive the young man remains in the game at all, let alone approaching the highest levels of his sport. (The Pretender)
- Bruins Draft Watch, spring 2011: 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. Source
RE 17-18: 11GP, 0-1-1
- What is unique about his story? Simpson has worked hard on improving his play every year and is has paid off. Gerry Fleming called him the most consistent player in Bakersfield after the 2015-16 season and that’s his calling card. He isn’t a bullet on skates, he doesn’t have a monster shot and he can’t wrestle a bear, but good things happen with him on the ice.
- What does Todd McLellan think of him? Todd McLellan: “He’s a heady player, he sees the ice well, he moves pucks. We have a lot of confidence in him. Last year at training camp, little bit banged up and didn’t really get himself on the map. This year through training camp he found a way to get on the map. We have a lot more confidence in him now than we did then.”
- Is there proof of his performance? The graph above shows good results and Simpson’s resume has all kinds of evidence along a similar path. Nothing he does on the ice is going to be a wow moment but the results, over time, are there.
- What is his ceiling? I don’t think anyone has mentioned a ‘Brandon Davidson gear’ but he can pass the puck and does have some offense. He has outscored Davidson (150gp, 11-17-28 .187) in the AHL by posting 10-38-48 .265 in 181 games.
- What role will Simpson apply for upon NHL arrival? I think third pairing, good coverage NHL defender.
- Could he emerge as an NHL regular? I think it’s possible. We have to acknowledge his ability to improve on his weaknesses and move up the depth chart. This thing Dillon Simpson has been doing (incremental improvement like clockwork) is long past being fluke or coincidence. I think he might be really smart and that’s a helluva an advantage.
- Does he have a chance at the opening night roster this fall? I have him in the No.9-No.11 area with Ryan Stanton and Mark Fayne. With Andrej Sekera hurt for the first portion of the season, one of those men is No. 8 and that’s going to be a battle.
- Does he have a real chance to eventually make the NHL as a regular? Years ago, Bill James wrote this amazing passage about never betting against a player who gets hurt in off-season training. I think Simpson is a great bet because of the distance traveled from draft day, and because of it will adopt that line of thinking from James. Why bet against a guy hellbent on a goal? God didn’t gift Dillon Simpson with great speed or vision, but he didn’t leave the young man stranded, either.
- What makes him attractive for this roster? The Oilers just paid $4 million times four years for steady play, perhaps the next guy on the chain will come at a lower price. Perhaps that player is Dillon Simpson.
- What is a reasonable timeline for full time NHL duty? He is now waivers eligible, so this season will be the first time Edmonton sends him down with the risk of losing the player. You never know, but I think he’ll clear.
- What will his role be in Bakersfield? Top 4D minutes and maybe a mentor role for someone like Caleb Jones or Ethan Bear. All of his coaches talk about how well he manages the game, and how many chores he adds just by being the obvious choice. I imagine he’ll be that player for some rookie in California.
- What one thing will get him to the NHL? His consistency.
- What will keep him from getting an NHL look? He lacks a dominant physical skill and doesn’t have that one thing that allows him to separate from the crowd.
- How many players can he reasonably be expected to pass in one winter? He is in the range with Stanton, Fayne and Lowe now, and would have to push Eric Gryba and Yohann Auvitu in order to get all the way to the NHL roster with everyone healthy. Seems like a long trip but he’s accomplished a lot. We’ll see.
- What one thing would McLellan value in a recall? Speed and the ability to stand up at the blue line, while being mobile enough to race back and win the battle at the end boards. That’s the reason Mark Fayne is in the minors and Kris Russell has a four-year deal, in my opinion. I believe Simpson can make that play.
- Why this song? I like it because it’s about not spinning infinity, it’s about demanding more, from life and yourself. I think it’s a perfect song for Dillon Simpson.