Brad E. Schlossman / Forum Communications Co., Published November 14 2012
UND's Simpson coming of age
“They were seven years older than me,” Simpson said with a laugh.
At times, it’s easy to forget how young the defenseman from Edmonton actually is, because Simpson has been such a key player for UND over the last couple of years.
Now a junior, Simpson is still younger than most of UND’s freshman class (Drake Caggiula and Jordan Schmaltz are the exceptions) and all of UND’s sophomore class.
But the 19-year-old is playing like a Western Collegiate Hockey Association veteran – as he is – early this season. Simpson has finally developed physically into the type of player capable of being a standout blue liner.
“You have to remember that everybody’s body matures at a different age,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “Dillon is a junior, but he just turned 19. He’s a young junior. We’re starting to see some of that physical maturity kick in – that combined with the hard work he’s put in over the last couple of years. You’re starting to see some of the payoff of his added strength and conditioning levels. That usually leads to an improved level of consistent play.”
Early this season, Simpson has arguably been UND’s most improved player.
He’s always had the offensive instincts and a head for the game. Now, Simpson has been winning more one-on-one battles and has the ability to muscle opponents away from loose pucks.
“My strength and my foot speed are the two things I focused on this summer,” Simpson said. “I feel like I’ve been playing with a lot more confidence this year. I feel a lot more comfortable as a junior. I can take more of a leadership role with the young guys. I’m just trying to get better and better each week.”
Last Saturday in UND’s 5-2 loss against St. Cloud State, Simpson was one of the few bright spots for the team. He scored a power-play goal by making a timely pinch from the blue line and was efficient at moving the puck out of the defensive zone.
“In a game where we weren’t happy with a lot of things we did, I thought he was one guy that continued to play at a real efficient level,” Hakstol said. “We’ve been happy with his play. He’s made a nice step forward from where he was as a sophomore, and he’s held that level of play. There have been a lot of positive signs this year.”
Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald