Dillon Simpson is what I like to call "a chunk of hockey player." He isn't very big. He isn't very fast. He isn't very truculent. He doesn't generate much offense. He plays at a respectable level. He's gotten some results, but not many. After four years at the University of North Dakota, Simpson looks like a refined version of the player that went in. He even majored in "managerial finance and corporate accounting", just so we know that there's nothing to get excited about.
Our favourite average college defenseman/managerial financier and corporate accountant is starting his professional hockey career this season, having agreed to a three-year deal back in April. Good for him. He seems likely to play in Oklahoma City, a town just as interesting as everything else in this article. With hard work and good luck he'll have a career as a sort of Sven Butenschön, bouncing up and down between the A and the N, more in the former than the latter, before opening a used car dealership in Sherwood Park, retiring at 45 years old, and spending the rest of his days as a beloved local character deeply involved with charity and his community.
Yeah, this guy's coming in at number fourteen. Welcome to Oil country.
Young Mr. Simpson clocks in at #14 on our Top 25 Under 25, because that's pretty much where he always goes. I ranked Simpson the highest, Bruce and Zsolt ranked Simpson the lowest, but the spread was pretty small. There is a consensus of averageness.
This past season Simpson was captain of a strong Fighting Sioux squad who went all the way to the Frozen Four semifinals: just far enough to be commendable, not far enough to be interesting. He was all-NCHC First Team and a finalist for Offensive Defenseman of the Year, Defenseman of the Year, and Player of the Year; he didn't win any of them, obviously. I see from the University of North Dakota website that he got many honours with many, many letters in them. In his final season of college eligibility, the most experienced blueliner on a good team was good.
Sioux Sports Talk, a UND blog, paeaned the departing Simpson. "There is no way," said Dave Berger, "that UND can replace that type of leadership with just one player." Veteran prospect-watchers will recognize the language of a pundit who knows a player was valuable, but to save his life cannot quantify why.
I don't mind Dillon Simpson. I ranked him twelfth, didn't I, and he's been climbing up my personal board over the past couple years (though perhaps I should say other players have been dropping below). He's going to have a professional career of some sort, which isn't bad for a fourth-round pick. In fact, Simpson might already be the Oilers' best fourth-round pick since Linus Omark. But we are talking about a 22-year-old who may have been nominated for some offensive defenseman honour or another but wasn't even the leading blueline scorer on his team. I have to admit that I think some of Craig's powerplay influence might be genetic.
Then again, there's the NCAA factor, summed up as "who the hell knows?" It's a weird level, with wildly varying programs and strange styles that can lead to misleading boxcars. Sometimes these players are quite a bit better, or quite a bit worse, than HockeyDB makes them look. Simpson was a couple years younger than the average NCAA senior when he left, and it was actually ranking pessimist Bruce McCurdy who put this best on Cult of Hockey: Simpson's numbers compare nicely to Tom Gilbert's at the same age. And Gilbert, as people on this blog if not elsewhere appreciate, is a fairly dandy player.
It's not like Simpson will lack for opportunities as the OIL blueline is fantastically appalling, like a convocation of eagles flying into a wind turbine. Yes, there are a load of young players on our blue, kids like Justin Schultz, Darnell Nurse, Jeff Petry, Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin, David Musil, Martin Gernat. But not all of them will make it; there are already plenty of question marks about players on that list. Chances will open up. And I'm legally obliged to state that Simpson is trying to become, along with Ben Scrivens, the second Spruce Grove Saints alumnus on the current Oilers roster; that alone is reason to cheer for him over some one-dimensional overpaid overhyped poor-man's-Marc-Andre-Bergerons I could name.
That's Dillon Simpson. There's reason to be optimistic, but there's much more reason to be blasé. You couldn't be surprised if he gets a nickel or a dime in the show in a few years. But I mean, Johan Motin played an NHL game. Come on.