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#13 - Dillon Simpson

Heading into his Senior Year with The University of North Dakota, Dillon Simpson drops one spot to come in at #13 on this edition of the Top 25 Under 25.

Nick Laham

In the last installment of the 25U25, Derek Zona profiled Dillon Simpson and noted an ongoing trend in that there was a general lack of consensus in where to rank Simpson on this list. The trend continues again this time around, though it appears the division is becoming more clearly defined.

In February, of the nine panelists, Simpson received six different rankings and he did not receive the same ranking from greater than two people. This time, as the table below will show, we see that Derek (who was the first one on the Simpson bandwagon), Jonathan, Ryan, Scott and I all have Simpson at either #10 or 11, while the trio of Ben, Bruce and Michael all have him at either #16 or 17. The lone person in the middle is DB, who split the difference between the two sides and matched the consensus placement.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Alan Ben Bruce DB Derek JW Michael Ryan Scott
13 Dillon Simpson 02/10/93 #92, 2011 11 17 16 13 10 11 17 10 10

Previous Rank: 12

It's worth pointing out that (as you'll see shortly) this edition of the Top 25 has much less consensus outside the top 9, so the disagreement over Simpson's ranking is much less of a unique occurrence than it was last time. Still, the fact that the young man has been in the system for three summers now and there is not yet a generally accepted veiw of his potential at the pro level is a bit unusual.

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.

We are likely to begin getting some better data on Simpson this coming season as it is expected that he will move on to the top pairing for his final season in North Dakota. Simpson excelled in the role during an audition this past March and with both Andrew MacMillan (Toronto) and Derek Forbort (Los Angeles) being signed by their NHL teams this off-season, he appears poised to play a feature role on the team's blueline in 2013/14.

...he could see the crowded road in front of him in the Oiler system and look for a clearer path to the NHL.

One of the interesting questions that will start to be posed about Simpson as he makes his way through his senior year in the NCAA is whether or not he will sign with the Oilers once his college career ends next spring. Having completed a four year NCAA career, Simpson will have the right to wait out a delay period and become an unrestricted free agent should he choose. While there are no indications of a strain in his relationship with the Oilers (not to mention his familial ties to the organization from his father's legacy as both a former player and Assistant Coach) it's not beyond reason that he could see the crowded road in front of him in the Oiler system and look for a clearer path to the NHL.

How crowded is that path you ask? Well, let's look at this from an optimistic standpoint. First, even-though he is a left-handed shot and has played the left-side throughout his college career, we won't entirely write-off the possibility of him playing the right-side as a pro (since he did state he actually preferred it during my interview with him in January). This isn't a huge help since the team likely has two of it's top three right-side spots filled for the long-term with Justin Schultz and Jeff Petry, but it does open up at least one additional spot to consider for him.

We'll go one-step further by discounting the contracts of all current NHL blueliners outside of J. Schultz and Petry (who appear for now to be in the team's long-term plans). This means that we'll assume that all other players on NHL deals will not be re-signed when those deals expire and that the contracts of Ladislav Smid and Andrew Ference can and will somehow be taken off the books by the time Simpson is NHL ready in 2-3 seasons.

Well positioning is a big thing. For me, a big part of that is my ability to read the play and anticipate where guys are going to go and how the play is going to develop. -Dillon Simpson

Clearing the current NHL logjam only gets Simpson half-way there. The real obstacle for him to overcome will be for him to separate himself from the team's other top prospects along the blueline, almost all of whom have now turned pro ahead of him. this includes all of Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin, Martin Gernat, Brandon Davidson, Taylor Fedun and David Musil. The exception from that list is Darnell Nurse, who is likely headed back to the OHL this season, but as the prospect with the highest draft pedigree, I think it's reasonable to assume that Nurse's timeline to an oppotunity in the NHL is likely equal to, if not ahead of that of Simpson as well.

That's seven players on the list in front of him and while its almost certain that not all will make the NHL (he is already ranked ahead of Davidson and Musil and was also ranked ahead of Fedun prior to his graduation due to age), the other four on that list are all pretty good bets to at least earn a shot in the NHL. If Simpson wants to play for the Oilers one day, he's got a lot of work to do, but I believe the kid has the ability to get it done. If that statement about playing the right-side is true, that could be something that separates him from the pack, but it remains to be seen if that is a possibility for him. The toughest challenge for Simpson will likely just be to find the pro minutes in the AHL for him to get a chance to prove himself.

Dillon Simpson strikes me as a guy who could be a legit top four player down the road and with so much experience at such a young age, he's got a lot going for him. Here's hoping that when the time comes for him to test his game at the pro level, he's doing it as a part of the Edmonton Oilers organization.

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