FUTURE WATCH | Dillon Simpson
Dillon Simpson, son of former Oiler Craig Simpson, has taken the first steps to creating his own legacy with impressive career at North Dakota
"It was surreal to be drafted by them."
Hearing his name called at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft was a special day for Dillon Simpson. The team which selected the defenceman in the fourth round, 92nd overall, was a team he was very familiar with; the Edmonton Oilers.
|Craig Simpson and son, Dillon Simpson, pose together at the 2011 NHL Draft. Photo by Getty Images.
"I remember sitting in the Xcel (Energy) Center and they called out my name," the Edmonton native said. "It was a great feeling. It's a team I grew up watching and they were always my favourite team. It's something that I really wanted for myself and it was really exciting to have that opportunity to play for them one day."
The Oilers were Simpson's childhood team and the organization which his father, Craig, had once played for and coached for. Craig Simpson played for the Oilers from 1987-92, playing in over 400 games for the blue and orange, scoring 365 points. He made his legacy with the Oilers, winning two Stanley Cups with the franchise. He scored the game-winning goal in Game 5 of the 1990 Stanley Cup Final, finishing with 31 points in that playoff run.
Getting drafted by the Oilers has now given the son an opportunity to build his own legacy with the organization, with the father taking a back seat to the journey.
"I think it has to do with, kind of both ways," said Dillon. "It's kind of a place to get advice and help. Especially after this year when I try to play pro hockey. I think he'll be a bigger part of my transition and telling me how it is and showing me the ropes. At the same time, it's kind of my career. He's done a great job of staying away from making that comparison and trying to make something of that story. I think for me personally, just focus on me and try to do the best that I can to make an impression."
Although the 20-year-old is creating his own success, he does give credit to his father for helping him along the way.
|Photo provided by the University of North Dakota.
"Absolutely," he said. "Even at a young age, he was my minor league coach. As far as work ethic and how much you have to dedicate your time and efforts to become a pro hockey player and the fact that he coached Edmonton when I was younger, I got to grow up around the tradition of the Oilers and that team. It kind of gives you an idea of what they're all about there and what they look for in players.
"It's huge. From a young age until now. He brought me up. He's actually the one to first put me on defence. I played forward for a long time before then. He's been the parent that did coach a lot of my minor hockey teams but he always gave me advice when I wanted it or I needed it. At the same time, he kind of let me find my own path and figure things out on my own. That's made me a better player which, you don't appreciate when you're younger. Now, when looking back on it, I think it was a big help."
Dillon Simpson appears to have a bright future with the Oilers. The defenceman has accomplished much over is four-year career at the University of North Dakota. Now in his senior year at UND, he is really starting to gain some traction as a promising candidate for the future of the Oilers blue line.
Simpson leads the NCAA in blocked shots with 37 and is the NCHS's top-scoring defenceman in conference games. With nine points (2-7-9) through the first 16 games of this season, he has continued his development at a quick pace.
|Craig Simpson played over 400 games for the Edmonton Oilers. Now it's his son's turn to try and make his mark on the game. Photo by Getty Images.
"Skating is something I've tried to focus on, the last couple of years. My first year in the NCAA, I found out pretty quick that my skating needed to get better. It's something I've put a lot of emphasis on and I think it's been showing. I feel a lot more confident with my skating now and I continue to try to improve it. Other than that, just my maturity. I'm bigger and stronger. With the kind of ice time and responsibility I am getting as I go through the program here at North Dakota, I'm building as a player in that perspective too."
Simpson is the acting captain of the Fighting Sioux, the youngest player to wear the 'C' in over 20 years.
"It was a tremendous honour," said the 10th youngest captain in program history. "A program like this, with so much transition and the fan base and support we get here in the community, in the United States and even in Canada, it's something I hold in high regards. It's something I put a lot of pride in and I've been working at. To be a captain this young, there's a little bit of learning curve but we have a great group of guys here. It's easy to lead by example and say something that needs to be said. I'm just trying to grown and develop as a leader and continue to get better as the season goes on."
It's not the first time that Simpson has been thrust into a role normally reserved for those with more years and experience on their resume. The defenceman immediately began playing for UND as a 17-year-old freshman in 2010. He'll end his career at age 21. It was a challenge for Simpson to play against bigger, older opponents, but he has faced it down with a mature willingness to overcome the adversity.
"It was a challenge I was looking forward to and at the same time, it was something I needed to work on and it took some time to get used to. We had an older team that year and a lot of those older guys did a great job of welcoming me in and showing me the ropes. How it has to be done and what needs to be done to be successful at this level. For me, my freshman year, with confidence came better play. I think I kind of got a feel for it early. You get to see what the games are like and what it takes and then from there you just build confidence and try to develop as a player to be more effective out there."
Simpson plans to graduate from UND with a degree in Managerial Finance and Corporate Accounting. He boasts a cumulative grade point average of 3.725 and is a two-time All-WCHA Academic Team Selection and recipient of the university's Rick and Lori Lee Impact Scholarship in his junior and senior years. Off the ice, Simpson continues to earn recognition for his non-hockey related character, intelligence and leadership. In November, he was recognized as one of 20 candidates for the 2013-14 CLASS Award, a recognition of a student athlete's 'positive impact on their communities'.
"It was a tremendous honour. I've taken some time to do some volunteer stuff in the community and spending time with people in the community is something I enjoy doing and have put a lot of pride in. Throughout the years, I've done a lot of work with some pretty cool organizations around the area."
Although Simpson will conclude his college career at the close of this season, he has not peeked ahead at what's next. Despite the looming transition to the professional ranks, the Fighting Sioux captain remains focused on his current team and their success.
"I'm 100% focused on my team here and trying to win a national championship with North Dakota. I just want to continue to improve as a player and do what I can to help my team win and from there, hopefully things can take care of themselves a little bit and I can think about the off-season once that's done."
When he does eventually go pro and attempt to make it in the NHL with the Oilers, Simpson says he is determined to be the all-around solid defenceman the organization could use.
"My best asset is probably my hockey sense. I play a steady and smart game where I'm not high risk, but I try my best to make plays. I take a lot of pride in the d-zone and being really good defensively, but also I can add some (offence) to the blue line."
Barons Player Stats | AHL Standings | Barons Schedule | Past Prospect Stats: 2012-13 | 2011-12
Stats Updated as of Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 3:00 p.m. MST
|d||19||31||4||6||10||4||43||EVERETT SILVERTIPS (WHL)|
|f||18||29||17||13||30||12||30||CALGARY HITMEN (WHL)|
|DARNELL NURSE||D||18||30||8||24||32||8||58||SAULT STE. MARIE (OHL)|
|F||18||31||14||10||24||-5||32||VANCOUVER GIANTS (WHL)|
|f||19||20||5||10||15||4||31||EVERETT SILVERTIPS (WHL)|
|F||19||30||17||11||28||11||85||EDMONTON OIL KINGS (WHL)|
|F||18||31||8||7||15||0||12||LONDON KNIGHTS (OHL)|
|F||24||23||4||5||9||1||59||JOKERIT HELSINKI (FINLAND)|
|F||19||34||3||0||3||1||8||NIZHNY NOVGOROD (RUSSIA)|
|26||8||3||4||1||2.40||.925||OKLAHOMA CITY (AHL)|
|LAURENT BROSSOIT||20||6||2||3||0||3.42||.888||OKLAHOMA CITY (AHL)|
|TYLER BUNZ||21||4||1||1||1||3.15||.914||OKLAHOMA CITY (AHL)|
|22||N/A||n/a||n/a||n/a||N/A||N/A||HPK HAMEENLINNA (FINLAND)|