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London goalie emerging as top prospect with Peterborough Petes

Londoner Michael Simpson playing with the London Junior Knights. .
Londoner Michael Simpson playing with the London Junior Knights. . Photo by Dan Hickling/OHL Images

A young London goalie is playing his way into the Peterborough Petes’ future plans.

As a 10th-round draft pick for Peterborough in 2019, Michael Simpson has been enjoying a stellar season with the Peterborough Petes’ Major Midget team, one of the top-ranked teams in the province.

After the draft, Simpson considered his options: try to catch on with a Junior B team in the London area or play midget locally.

Then the Petes gave him an offer to sign a standard player agreement with the Ontario Hockey League club, allowing him to play for the team’s affiliate, along with receiving a few other perks.

“I was a little hesitant with playing midget at first. You just hear about how it’s not as competitive and how it’s a step down from junior hockey, but it’s been great so far,” said Simpson.

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“There’s a lot of guys who were final cuts from their OHL or junior teams, so there’s some quality players.”

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Simpson has enjoed a great season so far, boasting one of the top goals-against averages in the province. But for the young netminder, a big part of his decision to move to Peterborough was the experience he would get with the OHL club.

“The big thing was all the extra stuff I’d be getting: the extra ice time with the OHL team and having more resources to get up to the next level,” he said.

“We’ve had a lot of success and we’re hoping to keep that going and maybe play in the Telus Cup or the provincial championship.”

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Not many goalies sign with their OHL clubs at 16 years old, and even fewer do so after being selected in the 10th round of the draft.

But Andrew Verner, the Petes’ assistant coach and goaltending coach, says Simpson is really benefiting from the OHL exposure.

“They’re hanging around our guys, doing all the off-ice training without guys, they’re getting better and they’re [helping] their middle team, and now that team’s become a destination for other midget kids to come play,” Verner said, noting that he is impressed at how well Simpson has developed through the first few months of the season.

“We wanted to get Michael here and get him up to speed as quick as possible. He’s done everything he can at that level, he’s been one of the best midget goalies in the province.”

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Andrew Verner of the Peterborough Petes. Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images
Andrew Verner of the Peterborough Petes. Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images Luke Durda/OHL Images

Performing double duty between the two teams, it’s not uncommon for Simpson to be on the ice eight times a week, usually getting in a practice or two with the OHL club.

“It’s a very busy schedule for him, but he’s committed to it and I think it will benefit him in the long run for sure,” said Verner.

With the Petes’ starting goalie, Hunter Jones, at world junior selection camp with Hockey Canada in early December, Simpson was supposed to make his OHL debut in a game against Niagara.

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But between Jones being sent back to the Petes and the game being cancelled, Simpson still awaits his first game.

Verner says the team will look for another opportunity to get him some OHL action.

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“We’ll see how his schedule works out with ours, see where we are in the standings, and if it works out, we’ll get him in this year, but he’s definitely got a leg up on being here next year,” Verner said.

Simpson played last season with the London Junior Knights and was teammates with Brett Harrison, who’s currently with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals.