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From the Booth: The Monsters are back!

From the Booth: Training Camp Notebook Volume 3

Oct 14, 2021

From the Booth

2021 Training Camp Notebook, Vol. 3

Thurs., 10/14/21


With just one day remaining prior to the start of the season, the Monsters are down to their last skate of the team’s 2012 training camp – a high-tempo practice led by Cleveland assistant coach Trent Vogelhuber on Thursday at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. With final preparations for the start of the campaign well underway, Cleveland witnessed what is likely to be the club’s final preseason roster move on Wednesday as the team’s NHL affiliate, the Columbus Blue Jackets, reassigned goaltender Cam Johnson to the ECHL’s Florida Everblades. Following Johnson’s departure, the Monsters’ opening night roster appears set with an even 25 players – 15 forwards, eight defensemen, and a pair of net-minders – left in training camp.


While plenty of lineup intrigue lingers on the eve of Friday’s first of eight meetings between the Monsters and Crunch this year, at least one matter is settled – veteran blue-liner Dillon Simpson will wear the captain’s “C” in 2021-22 after signing a three-year AHL contract extension with the Monsters last October. A one-time draft choice by his hometown Edmonton Oilers, Simpson has been a revelation since his arrival in Cleveland in 2018 and now reaps the rewards of his versatile, selfless approach to the game as the club’s official standard-bearer. We caught up with the 7th-year vet on Wednesday prior to the team’s first on-ice session of the season at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.


Dillon Simpson on…

How it feels to be chosen as this season’s Monsters captain…

“I’m quite honored. It’s a great group we have here so it’ll be exciting being the captain. For me, being here [for four seasons], I’m very comfortable. I’ve played with a lot of guys who are still here which is nice and going into the season, the leadership group doesn’t just stop with us three with the letters (Simpson and assistant captains Justin Scott and Tyler Sikura)…That makes life really easy for me. We just go out and play, we’ve got a good attitude in [the dressing room], a good atmosphere. It’ll be a fun year.”


How Scott and Sikura will help him set the tone for the Monsters this season…

“Us three together are already great friends, so it’s seamless in that sense. They’re a great duo. They command the room, guys follow them, they’re great pros, they do everything the right way. They both lead by example, they talk up when they need to. They’re easy guys to be around.”


Cleveland’s coaching staff this season, led by head coach Mike Eaves and assistants Trent Vogelhuber and Mark Letestu…

“You’ve got Eaver who’s got a ton of experience and brings a lot to the table and you mix in these younger coaches…You know [Letestu] will slide in seamlessly. He’s a student of the game, he’s really knowledgeable, he’s been great with the young guys right away…My first year here, Trent was a player and in training camp became a coach and he’s been a great addition to that coaching staff. All three of those guys bring something a little different but they’ve all been great working with older guys like me, but especially the young guys coming into the league.”


Enjoying the opportunity to practice at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse prior to opening night…

“It’s nice getting back here…You kind of get the sense now that the season is coming right away. It’s nice for the young guys to see the rink, it’s kind of an eye opener the first time you walk in, so we’re excited…It’s a long offseason, you put all the work in and now you get the payoff to just go play. We’ve got a lot of guys who’ve settled in now and have their games ready to go. It’s a long training camp in Columbus, it’s only been a week and a half here [in Cleveland’s training camp], but it seems so long when you’re just waiting at the end of the road for that first game, so it’ll be nice for everyone to get back out there and hopefully get a win.”


Why committing to Cleveland by inking a three-year AHL contract with the Monsters last October was the right move for him and his family…

“A lot went into it. My wife and I, we stay here year-round, we love the city. As an organization, [the Monsters are] great. Being able to play here has been a privilege and on top of it all, you get to play in front of these fans and you can’t say no to that…I’ve got a little girl, one and a half years old so she’s been keeping us busy through all this…To be back in a hopefully almost full to full rink and to be able to get back to somewhat normal, it’s been great for us. I’ve got another little girl on the way too, so the Simpson household is growing. It keeps us on our toes but it’s been great.”


The budding chemistry among the players in Cleveland’s locker room this season…

“We’ve got a great group of returning guys. We really built a great culture last year. It was a weird year with COVID and not really playing for the playoffs, but we built something really well throughout the season and now our new additions have swooped in seamlessly…They’re good players and add a lot to that locker room.”


Thanks for reading Monsters fans, it’s been fun keeping you all informed and hopefully mildly entertained through this series – we’ll be back intermittently during the season with more thoughts ‘From the Booth.’ In the meantime, we hope you enjoy full coverage of Monsters hockey, home and away, all year long on FOX Sports 1350 The Gambler and AHLTV. Until next time, here’s to hoping for a successful return to action and a memorable opening weekend in Cleveland!

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