Welcome to another summer of Blackhawks’ Future Friday. In this weekly column, we explore some of the prospects in the Blackhawks’ system, and see how far they’ve come in the past year, as well as discuss their future with the club. This Friday, we take a look at a netminder who surprisingly donned the Indian Head in 2013-14, after the Blackhawks had to reach down their depth chart to fill a void left by injury: Kent Simpson.
Simpson started his journey with the Blackhawks in 2010, when he was selected in the second round of that year’s NHL Entry Draft, at 58th overall.
His early selection came after a terrific year with the WHL’s Everett Silvertips, in which he went 22-9-1 with a 2.26 GAA and .925% save percentage in 35 appearances. He started all five of the Silvertips’ playoff games that year, where he posted a .908% save percentage and 2.62 GAA.
After being drafted by the Blackhawks, Simpson returned to Everett, in which he started 53 games, posting a 21-20-5-4 record coupled with a .916% save percentage and 2.78 GAA, both top 10 numbers among WHL netminders. Although the Silvertips qualified for the post-season, an injury prevented from Simpson from appearing in any playoff action, and the Silvertips were swept by the Portland Winterhawks, backstopped by fellow Blackhawks prospect Mac Carruth.
Simpson was back with the Silvertips in his final year of WHL eligibility, and started 60 of Everett’s 72 games that year. He averaged 3.03 GAA and a .909% save percentage. The Silvertips qualified for the third straight year with Simpson as the net-minder, but were swept for the second year in a row, this time by the Tri-City Americans. Simpson had a 4.00 GAA and .883% save percentage in that series.
Simpson made his professional debut with the Rockford IceHogs, the Blackhawks’ top affiliate, following his final junior games. In one game with the ‘Hogs against the Charlotte Checkers, Simpson allowed three goals in an overtime loss. Simpson signed a three-year entry-level contract in May of 2012, and thus, his professional career began.
In 2012-13, Simpson spent the majority of the year with the Toledo Walleye, the Blackhawks’ ECHL affiliate. There, he was 20-14-5 in 41 appearances, with a 2.36 GAA and .912 save percentage. He appeared in two games with the IceHogs that year, going 1-1 with a 3.07 GAA and .924% save percentage.
This past season, Simpson battled with Carruth for the right to back-up Antti Raanta with the IceHogs at training camp, and he started the season in Rockford. When Raanta joined the Blackhawks full-time after Nikolai Khabibulin’s season-ending injury, Simpson shared duties with then-recent pickup Jason LaBarbera. In total, Simpson appeared in 31 games, amassing an 11-14-1 record with a 3.64 GAA and a .891% save percentage.
Simpson made his NHL debut with the Blackhawks on December 9th, 2013, against the Toronto Maple Leafs. After Raanta went down with injury, Simpson started the third for the Blackhawks, who were already down 5-2. 28 seconds into his NHL career, Joffrey Lupul gave him his first goal-against. In total, he allowed two goals on seven shots as the Blackhawks fell 7-3.
Simpson is an imposing figure in the crease at 6-foot-2, 200 lb, and is described as “technically sound, and hard to beat straight up” by hockeysfuture.com. He is expected to re-join the IceHogs in 2014-15, and will battle new signing Michael Leighton for the right to be the teams’ starting goaltender.
At only 22 years old, it appears that Simpson’s best years are still ahead of him. If and when the IceHogs call on him to handle a heavy workload, his experience with the Silvertips will give him a big advantage, and one can bet that the young goaltender will be chomping at the bit to move up within the depth charts of one of the NHL’s most stacked organizations.
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