The underlying storyline to the entire history of the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL has been "The Boys on the Bus". The men featured in that documentary dominated the ice for the first decade of Oilers history. After their playing careers were over, thee of them ended up behind the bench. Two of those coaches were in place for the better part of a decade and the other has been in charge of hockey operations at Rexall since 2000. Those men surrounded themselves with friends from their playing days, recreating that rambling boys on the bus atmosphere, an atmosphere that's permeated the Oilers for more than 20 of their 32 seasons.
In 2011, the Oilers drafted David Musil, son of Oilers' scout Frank Musil, in the second round (#31), and a few fans raised their eyebrows.
It was against that backdrop that a significant number of fans cried foul when the Oilers drafted Dillon Simpson in the fourth round (#92) in 2011. Simpson wasn't on many draft observers' radar and it looked like a reach. But Simpson is doing his damnedest to prove the critics wrong and show that he was drafted on merit, not the nepotistic policies of Edmonton management.Simpson moved up four spots overall to #17, clear of the group of middling defensemen with murky futures ranked between #21-#27.
|Rank||Player||DOB||Drafted||Year||Ben ||Bruce ||DB||Derek||Jon||Ryan||Scott|
I thought for sure I would have Simpson ranked higher than anyone else on the panel, but I was wrong. Ben and Bruce both dropped Simpson one spot, and I moved him up one spot to #13. While Jonathan moved Simpson up seven spots, it was Scott who raised Simpson's ranking a stunning eleven spots all the way to #12, who checks in as our biggest optimist.
Bruce thinks Simpson needs a ton of work before he's ready:
Simpson is having a quiet season at UND with no sign of a significant surge in boxcars that many players experience in their sophomore year. After a surprise invite to Hockey Canada’s summer camp, he wasn’t invited back to December tryouts despite the unavailability of several top candidates. A solid draft-and-follow prospect, Dillon has some nice attributes, and time to work on shortcomings such as skating stride, because he’s years away yet.
And Scott thinks Simpson's season at North Dakota is anything but quiet:
Simpson still hasn't turned 19, and yet he's having a great season in the NCAA at the University of North Dakota, which is one of the nation's best programs in one of the nation's best Conferences. He has 13 points in 26 games and leads the team in +/- at +10. That kind of success in the NCAA at such a young age is very encouraging.
In my opinion, Simpson's season has been outstanding so far. After starting off slowly, Simpson has come on strong since November. According to North Dakota SID Jayson Hajdu, Simpson has 13 points in his last 18 games and is +11 over that span. Simpson leads the Fighting Sioux defense in plus-minus and is second in shots with 36.
Simpson has played a mixture of second and third-pairing minutes thus far in his sophomore season and began playing on the power play in mid-November.
UPDATE: My information was incorrect on Simpson's time on ice. I asked Jayson Hajdu, SID at North Dakota about Simpson's assignments and partners:
He had been on the top pairing with Ben Blood for a stretch. When Derek Forbort returned to the lineup last week they shuffled the pairings and Dillon went to the second pairing with Nick Mattson. Dillon and Mattson also currently anchor the first PP unit.
This news is extremely encouraging. Simpson has been successful against the toughs and is still playing seconds in the best conference in the NCAA as a sophomore. I don't know that there are many defensemen in the Oilers' pipeline capable of the same.
He's tracking well against the group of very young peers I mentioned in the summer update:
|3||84||Phoenix||Harrison Ruopp||Prince Albert||WHL||42||2||4||6|
|3||89||San Jose||Justin Sefton||Sudbury||OHL||44||1||11||12|
|4||92||Edmonton||Dillon Simpson||North Dakota||NCAA||27||1||12||13|
|4||95||NY Islanders||Robbie Russo||Notre Dame||NCAA||29||3||10||13|
The early returns on Simpson show that he's exceeded his draft-day expectations. He's got two more seasons to refine his game and prepare for the rigors of the pro game and he doesn't turn 19 for another six days.