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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum Communications Co., Published January 27 2010

Men's hockey: Sioux land blue-chipper, UND nabs D Dillon Simpson, son of NHLer

GRAND FORKS – The University of North Dakota has landed arguably the most coveted college hockey recruit in Canada.

Defenseman Dillon Simpson, an Edmonton native, gave a verbal commitment over the weekend, choosing the Sioux over Denver, Wisconsin and Michigan State, where his father Craig starred before playing 10 years in the NHL.

Simpson is the third-leading defenseman scorer in the Alberta Junior Hockey League as a 16-year-old rookie, which prompted recruiters from most every college hockey power to come his way.

“Without a doubt, he’s a pretty sought-after player,” Spruce Grove coach Steve Hamilton said. “He’s an excellent puck mover, very crafty defensively and he’s got great hockey sense.”

Simpson visited UND last month during the Wisconsin series.

“It was pretty great,” he said. “I met most of the guys. They are great guys, have great coaches and I had a lot of fun. It’s a nice campus and the fans and the facilities are just unbelievable.

“More than anything, it was the people (that led to the commitment). The coaches and players made the decision easier. The atmosphere at the game was something that I want to be a part of.”

Simpson, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound, two-way defenseman, was named one of Inside College Hockey’s 10 newsmakers to watch for 2010. He was the only recruit on the list.

“Simpson is heralded as the best player available for college recruiters,” the Web site said. “He could make a team very happy in 2010.”

Simpson has accelerated his education and is available to come to campus next season. If not, he’ll arrive at UND in the fall of 2011.

Even before his visit, Simpson was well-schooled on UND. During the first half of the season, Sioux forward Matt Frattin skated with Simpson in Spruce Grove, Alta., while Frattin worked toward his re-instatement.

Simpson’s Spruce Grove team currently is 40-4-1-3 and has been ranked the No. 1 Junior A team in all of Canada for much of this season.

UND has several players on its current roster with NHL family member connections: Brad Malone, David Toews, Brett Hextall, Darcy Zajac and Brett Bruneteau.

Now, the Sioux have two recruits with connections in Brock Nelson and Simpson.

Craig Simpson was the No. 2 overall draft pick in 1985 and played for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres from 1985-95. He spent four years as an assistant coach with the Edmonton Oilers from 2003-07, helping them to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006. Former Sioux defenseman Matt Greene was on that squad.

Craig is now a color commentator for CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.

Although Craig was a Hobey Baker finalist in 1985 for the Spartans, he didn’t put pressure on his son to attend the same school.

“He wanted to do what was best for me,” Dillon said. “He was really supportive.”

Brad E. Schlossman is a writer for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.