Dillon Simpson working hard to develop his own Oilers legacy

Author: Alex Armiento, for PHPA.com
Date: Mar 6, 2018

Having past the midway point of the 2017-18 season and with the NHL trade deadline having come and gone, teams tend to use this time of year as an opportunity to take a hard look at their top prospects, with some receiving a shot at the next level.

One player who hopes to prove his value at the NHL level and further build upon the experience he gained there last year is Bakersfield Condors defenseman, Dillon Simpson, who is enjoying an outstanding season.

Simpson was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers with the first pick in the fourth round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He has been one of the AHL’s best defenceman, and was rewarded last season with his first call up to the NHL for a three game stint with the Oilers.  Although he has continued his development with Bakersfield all season and is aiming to help the Condors challenge for the Calder Cup, Simpson yearns to once again crack the Oilers’ blue line, and is taking on a more prominent role to help get there.

Simpson traces the success he’s had throughout his hockey career to his family. His father, Craig Simpson, won two Stanley Cups with the Oilers during their dynasty years and played ten seasons in the NHL.  He is now a broadcaster for Hockey Night in Canada. Dillon’s aunt, Christine Simpson, also works as an in-game reporter for Rogers Sportsnet.

“I think just being around hockey all the time at an early age and getting an in depth, first-hand look into what it took to be a professional was an eye opener,” said Simpson about how his family ties helped grow his love for the game. “Our whole lives revolved around hockey.  At Christmas time we always had a big family hockey game and our lives were scheduled around hockey and hockey games.”

The constant impact of the game in his family’s life gave Simpson a sense of how to perform in every situation he was given.

A key decision that Simpson made to advance his hockey career, was choosing to play NCAA hockey, which is becoming a more common path for players.  As Simpson describes, it was an easy choice.

“I wanted to get a degree while I was playing hockey.  I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to go to the University North Dakota for four years. They were the best years of my life where I met a ton of great people and got the chance to play great hockey in an unbelievable environment.”

Following his freshman year with the North Dakota Fighting Hawks where Simpson registered 10 points in 30 games, he knew he would likely be drafted, however, he wasn’t sure where.  “It was one of those moments where I jumped up from my seat when I found out. Having grown up in Edmonton and with my Dad having played there for six years, the Oilers were the team I grew up cheering for so the whole situation of being drafted by them of all teams felt pretty surreal.”

Following his senior year at North Dakota where he was named to the All-NCHC First Team and also served as team Captain, Simpson began his professional career when he was assigned to the Oilers’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate in Oklahoma City at the time.  His rookie year saw him put up 17 points in 71 games and where the team advanced to the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs.

The Oilers’ AHL affiliate relocated to Bakersfield the following year, and Simpson had no problems adjusting to life on the West Coast.  He bested his point total from the previous year in 14 fewer games and proved to be a strong and dependable blueliner for the Condors.

His dream of representing his hometown team on the grandest stage became a reality during the 2016-17 season when he got the call to join the Oilers. “You can’t find the words to describe the feeling,” said Simpson while reflecting on his NHL experience.  “That first game in Edmonton was something I have looked forward to ever since I was a young boy, and especially after being drafted.  To play in front of friends and family at the new rink was unbelievable.”

Armed with the experience gained from his time with the Oilers last season, Simpson has continued to develop his style of play in Bakersfield. “Just getting my feet wet and knowing the level I have to play to be effective and getting a sense of how good the players are.  I’ve been working to develop my game to be able to compete at that level all the time.”

While reflecting on his time in Bakersfield thus far, Simpson understands the passion of the fans in the city and how they rally around the team better than anyone. “Bakersfield has a lot of passionate fans.  Oklahoma City was a great city to play in too, but being in Bakersfield gives us a lot more freedom to work on skills with the lighter travel schedule and I think that has helped the team a lot.”

Finally, Simpson discussed his Dad and the mentorship role he has played throughout his career. “My Dad was always a coach or assistant coach on my teams growing up. As I got older in my career he has taken a more hands-off approach but it’s always comforting to know that I have someone to turn to with that experience whenever I need it.”

Dillon Simpson has always been true to his character and that has been shown throughout his career regardless of where he is playing.  Off the ice, Simpson is the Condors’ Player Representative for the Professional Hockey Players’ Association, a position of leadership which his teammates elected him to serve.  “Attending the PHPA Annual Meeting last summer was an unbelievable experience, especially to be there for their 50th Anniversary launch which was awesome.  I learned so much, met a lot of great executives from around the game, and enjoyed hanging out with other players from around the league I otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to meet.” 

Simpson’s primary goal this year is to help Bakersfield make the playoffs and show the rest of the AHL what their team is capable of.  He’s also hoping to add some more NHL experience to his resume and carve out his own Oilers legacy. 

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