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FUTURE WATCH | Trail-blazer Simpson focused on paving his own way

by Meg Tilley / Edmonton Oilers

Photo by Mark Nessia / Bakersfield Condors.

Stopped short long before his 2015-16 season with the Bakersfield Condors began, Dillon Simpson has been making his way back after sustaining a shoulder injury on his second day of Oilers Rookie Camp.

“I dislocated my shoulder and tore my labrum and another ligament, so it was a tough break for me,” said Simpson. “A summer of hard work — you don’t want to say for nothing but to hurt yourself the second day of camp is always tough.”

Out for seven weeks, the six-foot-two defenceman, now playing in his second AHL season and first year with the Condors, is finally finding his groove. Having only played 10 games so far, Simpson scored his first goal against the San Diego Gulls on December 4th, having added an earlier assist in November on his third game back.

“It’s been a long off-season in not having played a game in nearly five months, it’s tough to just sit around and wait but getting back into it has been awesome,” said Simpson.

“We’ve got a great group of guys down here which makes it that much more enjoyable and now we’re just focussing on trying to win some games and getting ourselves back into the race. For me personally, it’s been an interesting first 10 games but I’m starting to feel really good and am confident going into the second half of the season.”

Simpson isn’t the only Condor who had been waiting to get back into the lineup, as the Bakersfield team has had their fair share of players shuffling in and out due to injuries sustained on both the Edmonton affiliate team and Oilers organization.

“It seems like [injuries have] plagued both teams,” said Simpson.

“We’re getting injured and then the Oilers get injured and then guys have to go up so we’re even missing more guys. It’s interesting how it works but the guys who have come in and filled in have done a great job, we’re all working hard and playing well so kudos to them and for the rest of the guys, they’re working hard to get back into the line-up and get healthy.”

Last season, Simpson played in 71 games, scoring three goals while adding 14 assists for 17 points.

The puck-moving defenceman has been described as a player with great hockey sense and instincts on the ice, but has said that he makes a conscious effort to improve in areas that could use some work.

“For many years now, from when I was young, I wasn’t the best skater so I’ve been continuing to work on it and it has been improving,” he said.

Former NHL player Craig Simpson and son 92nd overall pick Dillon Simpson by the Edmonton Oilers. Photo Getty Images.

“But there’s always something each year I like to improve on. From there I try to improve on my offensive capabilities to contribute offensively a bit more this year than in years past.”

Those qualities he exhibits, a determined player who works hard both on and off the ice, may have been what attracted the Oilers to draft him in the first place.

The 22-year-old, who hails from Edmonton, was selected by his hometown National Hockey League team in the 2011 NHL Draft, selected in the fourth round, 92nd overall.

“It was an amazing feeling,” said Simpson.

“I was actually at the draft, it was in St. Paul, MN, which is not too far from where I went to school, so I was able to go to the draft and be a part of it. Getting drafted by my team — the team I grew up cheering for — was quite an experience and something I’ll never forget. It was an exciting time for myself and for my family.”

It was so exciting, that it may have even felt a bit like déjà vu for the Simpson family as Dillon’s dad, Craig Simpson, was once a forward for the Oilers.

Craig, a retired Canadian professional hockey forward who played 10 seasons in the NHL, was drafted in 1985 in the first round, second overall, by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Midway through his third season, Craig was traded to the Oilers and joined the Mark Messier and Glenn Anderson line and ended up winning two Stanley Cups with Edmonton in 1988 and 1990.

But it would be in New York, when Craig was traded to the Buffalo Sabres prior to the 1993-94 season, where Dillon would be introduced to the game he loves so much today.

“As a young kid, I was in Buffalo when my dad was still playing and that’s when they first slapped skates on me and gave me a hockey stick,” said Dillon.

“I remember, I was pretty young, they’d throw skates on me and I’d just kind of walk around on the frozen pavement and think I was skating — but not much of that actually going on.”

Dillon Simpson celebrates with his University of North Dakota teammates. Photo Getty Images.

From his wobbly beginnings, Dillon found a passion that stuck with him and didn’t waver. As the Simpson family returned to Edmonton after Craig’s retirement as a player and new venture as a colour commentator with Sportsnet for Edmonton Oilers regional games, Dillon was immersed into the world of hockey.

Playing with the Southwest Area Two (SWAT) non-profit organization when he was younger, Dillon then moved to the South Side Athletic Club where he played bantam hockey with the Southgate Lions then midget with the SSAC Boston Pizza Athletics before securing a spot with the Junior A Spruce Grove Saints in 2008 and help the 2009-10 team win the Alberta Junior Hockey League Championship at age 16.

“That was a big step in my hockey career and something I’ll never forget,” said Dillon. “We had an older team that year and for me as a 16-year-old, to be a part of the run was a lot of fun and memorable.”

Blazing his own trail of success, Dillon chose to attend the University of North Dakota in 2010 where he played four seasons with the Fighting Hawks hockey team.

“My dad went to Michigan State and played hockey there so growing up I kind of at least knew I had a little bit more exposure to the NCAA than a lot of kids get in Western Canada — or anywhere in Canada for that matter…. I kind of figured that was something that I wanted to do, pursue hockey in the NCAA to try and get a scholarship, play hockey and get my degree at the same time,” said Dillon.

Though Michigan State was on a list of options for Dillon, having been brought to his dad’s alumni university when he turned 15 where they attended a game and he was shown the university grounds, he found his calling at the University of North Dakota.

“After going to see [Michigan State], it was a place I was really impressed with and could see myself going to, but… after that visit to North Dakota I cancelled my other visits because that was the place I wanted to be.”

Now, having settled back into a rhythm with his team, Dillon says the Condors have been quick to adapt to the changes that have come their way.

Photo by Mark Nessia / Bakersfield Condors

“We’ve kind of had a few tough weeks in the last little stretch but for the most part we’re starting to play a lot better and we know we’re the type of team where if we play well then we can play with anyone in the league,” he said.

More than ever the blueliner is focused on the success of his team and paving his own way within the Oilers and NHL organization, never forgetting where his roots began.

“I think, more than anything, growing up in a hockey family where I was around the game, I kind of got to see a lot of insight and a lot of behind the scenes through my dad,” said Dillon.

“It gave me kind of more of a passion and a drive to want to make it a part of my life.”

Statistics For In The System Through Past Seasons: 14-15 | 13-14 | 12-13 | 11-12
Stats Updated as of Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Bakersfield (AHL) - Forwards


Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM
GREG CHASE C 20 9 1 2 3 0 4
BRADEN CHRISTOFFER LW 21 19 1 2 3 -5 35
JOSH CURRIE C 23 8 3 1 4 0 9
LEON DRAISAITL C 20 6 1 1 2 -5 4
MATTHEW FORD*   RW 31 18 8 6 14 -4 22
RYAN HAMILTON   LW 30 18 6 2 8 -4 8
KELLEN JONES   LW 25 1 0 0 0 -1 2
KALE KESSY   LW 22 18 4 3 7 +5 28
JUJHAR KHAIRA   LW 21 16 3 4 7 -1 7
ALEXIS LOISEAU   C 21 12 1 2 3 +1 2
ANDREW MILLER   RW/C 27 14 6 10 16 +1 8
MITCH MOROZ   LW 21 14 2 3 5 +3 36
PHILIP MCCRAE* C 23 9 2 0 2 -4 4
IIRO PAKARINEN   RW 24 4 1 2 3 0 4
TYLER PITLICK   RW 23 3 0 0 0 -1 0
KYLE PLATZER RW 20 20 2 4 6 -3 4
MARC-OLIVIER ROY* C 21 9 1 0 1 -4 0
ANTON SLEPYSHEV LW 21 12 3 1 4 -5 6
JOSH WINQUIST   LW 22 8 3 4 7 +3 20
BOGDAN YAKIMOV   C/W 21 14 3 4 7 -3 6
DANIIL ZHARKOV (INJURED)
LW 21 - - - - - -
Bakersfield (AHL) - Defencemen


Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM
MARTIN GERNAT   d 23 11 0 0 0 +1 2
brad hunt   D 27 20 4 14 18 -6 8
JOEY LALEGGIA   D 23 20 0 7 7 +5 16
DAVID MUSIL D 22 20 2 1 3 +3 12
NIKITA NIKITIN   D 29 14 1 8 9 -7 0
DARNELL NURSE   D 20 6 0 1 1 0 7
JORDAN OESTERLE   d 23 12 0 7 7 -2 6
NICK PAGEAU   D 27 12 0 1 1 -5 2
GRIFFIN REINHART   D 21 2 0 1 1 +1 2
DILLON SIMPSON
D 22 10 1 1 2 -6 0
Norfolk (ECHL)


Name POS age    GP G A P +/- PIM
BEN BETKER D 21 22 1 7 8 +1 17
GREG CHASE F 20 10 4 2 6 -3 18
Canadian Hockey League
Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM team
CALEB JONES  D 18 27 4 16 20 +7 27 PORTLAND WINTERHAWKS (WHL)
ETHAN BEAR  D 18 27 6 22 28   +4 16 SEATTLE THUNDERBIRDS (WHL)
NCAA & USHL
Name POS age  GP G A   P +/- PIM team
EVAN CAMPBELL   LW 21 16 2  4 6 0 14 UMASS-LOWELL (NCAA)
WILLIAM LAGESSON
D 19 17 2 4 6 -1 14 UMASS-AMHERST (NCAA)
JOHN MARINO d 18 22 1 11 12 +4 14 TRI-CITY (USHL)
AIDAN MUIR LW 20 14 1 1 2 -8 6 WESTERN MICHIGAN (NCAA)
TYLER VESEL   C 21 16 1 6 7 +6 0 NEBRASKA-OMAHA (NCAA)
Europe
Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM team
ROMAN HORAK C 24 38 8 11 19 0 24 CHEKHOV VITYAZ (KHL)
PHILIP LARSEN   D 25 33 4 15 19 +7 8 JOKERIT HELSINKI (FINLAND)
ZIYAT PAIGIN  F 20 16 4 6 10 -4 4 KAZAN AK-BARS (KHL)
ANTTI TYRVAINEN  F 26 13 5 1 6 1 53 ILVES TAMPERE (finland)
2016 World Junior Hockey Championships
Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM team
CHECK BACK DURING THE TOURNAMENT                 
Goaltenders
Name age GP w l T GAA SV% team
KEVEN BOUCHARD   19 18 4 11 2 3.90 .871 baie-comeau (qmjHL)
LAURENT BROSSOIT 22 15 9 4 1 2.57 .926 bakersfield (AHL)
EETU LAURIKAINEN 22 6 2 4 0 2.02 .920 HPK HAMEENLINNA (finland)
ZACH NAGELVOORT   21 7 4 1 1 3.17 .885 michigan (ncaa)
BEN SCRIVENS   29 5 0 4 0 5.15 .827 bakersfield (ahl)
MIROSLAV SVOBODA   20 1 0 1 0 6.00 .750 TRINEC OCELARI (CZECH)
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