Dave Starman, CBS College Hockey Analyst and former NHL scout, weighed in on the National Collegiate Hockey Conference at College Hockey News and tabbed Dillon Simpson as a "player to watch" in the upcoming season:
One of the first that comes to mind is Dillon Simpson at North Dakota. Of their top three scoring defensemen from last year, he's the only one back. There's good blood lines there with his father having played in the NCAA and NHL, and he gets it. When you grow up with a guy who was a winner, you can make a case a lot rubs off on the kid (look at Eric Nystrom!). He certainly understands what it means to be a leader and have a pro mentality, a business-first mentality. I also think that he's gotten to a point where his skating, hand skills and hockey sense can slow a game down and allow him to make a lot of plays. As a senior, he's younger than some of the freshmen. Without Derek Forbort back there he will have a lot on his shoulders, but he's the type of player that will respond to that.
Oilers' fans have followed Simpson since the team drafted him in the fourth round in 2011 and began his NCAA career as a 17-year-old freshman at North Dakota. Though Simpson has already played in 114 games and is set to begin his senior season, he is younger than all seven juniors and five of the seven sophomores on the UND squad. Alan Hull asked him about the juxtaposition of his age and his role on the team when they spoke last season:
C&B: You’re already into your third year at North Dakota. Have you begun to find yourself taking on any of the responsibilities of a veteran player this season?
DS: Yeah, it’s been pretty interesting, especially considering I’m still the third youngest player on my team, but, considering the position I’m in and how long I’ve been here, it’s been nice to start to assume a bit more of a leadership role. You get to know the guys who have been here with you for a while and you get to see the freshmen coming in and Sophomores coming up, and you start to feel more comfortable being one of the leaders on the team and you have to carry that responsibility well and set a good example for everyone else.
Simpson ranked #13 in the summer version of our Top 25 Under 25, but the group's opinion on him was far from unanimous:
I think a number of factors contribute to the varied opinions of him with the fact that he is still in college for another year and that despite heading into his senior season with UND he is still only 20 years old being high among them. Beyond that, I suspect there are questions about his skating and about what amount of his offensive game will translate to the professional ranks.
North Dakota ranks 6th in the USA Today pre-season poll, and 5th in the College Hockey News pre-season poll, and is a favorite to reach the Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia in April.
(h/t Jayson Hajdu)