Dillon Simpson (in photo, by Mark Williams) is in year two of his pro career, 111 games and miles of skating and defending closer to his NHL dream. Defensemen like Simpson are very hard to monitor for fans, because the boxcar numbers (39, 2-10-12) don’t really tell us the story of their game. A substantial portion of Simpson’s value is defensive, and we can’t really measure it for AHL players (no access to TOI and advanced stats collected by organizations). Is Dillon Simpson making progress? Is he tracking like Brandon Davidson did at the same point in his career?
If we are going to compare these two players, we should make sure they have some things in common. I like to go all the way back to draft day, in order to get the real goods (we all tend to skew the story after success or failure).
Brandon Davidson Draft Day Scouting Report (via Mike Remmerde): I usually like late bloomers who come out of nowhere, but this guy’s
skating bothers me too much. Has big trouble with pivots. But he’s got
really good hockey sense and is a very good puck mover. Probably goes
way higher than I like, but if somehow he lasted until the 5th round, I
might be interested. Source
Dillon Simpson Draft Day Scouting Report (via Red Line Report); “Stay at home defencemen with
savvy and size. Had
trouble getting qualilty icetime as a 17-year-old true freshman on deep,
veteran defence corps of top collegiate program, but did show steady
progress adjusting to the pace of play against older, stronger
opponents. Rarely saw the ice on either special teams units. Sluggish skater with a short
stride, but shows good gap control and lateral mobility. Tentative to do
anything offensively and always has one foot back on defence. Doesn’t
see the ice well and hurries to get the puck off his stick. Makes sharp
defensive reads and is rarely out of position. Struggled 1-on-1 in the
corners and down log against more physically developed forwards. .” Source
Hmm. Sounds similar in some important areas (I should point out that Simpson was playing against NCAA competiton—older players). That said, the general themes I see here are skating issues early, and slow progress. Simpson, as mentioned above, did not barge onto the UND campus and play 25 minutes a night, and Davidson spent his 20-year old season in the WHL.
As a pro player, age 21 and 22, Simpson has posted higher offensive (boxcar) numbers, and Davidson’s AHL time matches him.
- Dillon Simpson at 21: 71, 3-14-17 .234 points-per-game
- Brandon Davidson at 21: 26, 2-3-5 .192 points-per-game
- Dillon Simpson at 22: 39, 2-10-12 .308 points-per-game
- Brandon Davidson at 22: 68, 5-8-13 .191 points-per-game
Simpson would appear to be in the range with Davidson, perhaps a little better. I hesitate to put too much importance on this, because we don’t have time on ice totals and that impacts the boxcars heavily.
TURNING THE CORNER
It takes time. After 150 AHL games, Brandon Davidson showed the Oilers he had learned the lessons required to make the next step.
David Staples, Cult of Hockey (April 2015): In the
first three games of the AHL playoffs, all OKC wins over the San Antonio
Rampage, Davidson has played dominating two-way hockey and even been
granted power play time in an interesting role, being asked to screen
the goalie with his 6-foot, 2-inch, 215-pound frame. Source
We see it in Davidson’s play these days at the NHL level, where he approaches 25 minutes a night and plays in all situations. He is a mature player despite his youth and (NHL) inexperience—and those skills were developed in the AHL.
The AHL develops players like Davidson. Names this century that Edmonton developed include Jason Chimera, Fernando Pisani, Kyle Brodziak and now Davidson. Simpson is only 111 games into his NHL career, and honestly the most accurate thing we can say about him is that he has no real strengths. Still, he continues his development and the verbal has some encouraging words. We hear good things about SImpson, whether he is playing a shutdown role with David Musil or (as this afternoon) playing the defensive role on a pairing with Brad Hunt.
The Oilers don’t develop many Brandon Davidson’s in a decade, and betting on Dillon Simpson because he has some vague similarities with Davidson is folly. If you are in Vegas, bet on another Brandon Davidson emerging from the crowd in about 2020.
As for Dillon Simpson, I would suggest it is wise to wait another season to see what he becomes. There are some good arrows.