ST. PAUL, Minn. — Every year, general managers across the league give the same sound bite after the draft. No one in the history of hockey ever expected the player they picked to have been available at their spot.
In the case of the newest Bruin, those usual clichés actually have a ring of truth. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton wasn't supposed to still be on the board when Boston stepped to the podium for the ninth pick of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft on Friday night at the Xcel Energy Center.
But thanks to an early run on centers, Hamilton did indeed fall to the Bruins, who were able to address the biggest need in their system without abandoning their usual strategy of selecting the best player available.
"A little bit," Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli said when asked if he was surprised Hamilton was available at No. 9. "We had him basically in our top five. As we might have expected, a couple of players we had listed below our ninth kind of slid in ahead of that group and pushed him down. I think maybe people went off track a little bit, and there he was."
Only top-rated Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson went ahead of Hamilton, with New Jersey grabbing Larsson at No. 4. After that, the Bruins sweated out the selection of four straight centers as the Islanders (Ryan Strome), Ottawa (Mika Zibanejad), Winnipeg (Mark Scheifele) and Philadelphia (Sean Couturier) each staying away from the blue line.
The Bruins did get a bit of a scare from the Islanders at No. 5. New York was the only team Hamilton visited after the scouting combine, and the many mock drafts that had penciled him in for the Isles were looking good when the Islanders announced their selection as being from Niagara of the Ontario Hockey League. But New York went with Hamilton's junior teammate, Strome, leaving the Bruins the chance to bolster their future blue line with Hamilton.
"You hear that called and there's a chance that it's going to be you, but I wasn't really sure what was going on," Hamilton said of the Islanders selection of Strome. "I'm just happy I'm sitting right here with this [Bruins] jersey on.
"Not really at all," Hamilton added about whether he was nervous waiting for his name to be called. "I just kind of lost my nerves after a few picks and started getting really excited. Obviously Boston was sitting there at nine and they're the Stanley Cup champions and I'm just really excited right now."
Chiarelli was equally excited about the skills Hamilton will eventually bring to Boston.
"[He's a] tremendous skater, good offensive instincts, good stick," Chiarelli said. "He's a very smart player on the ice. Good range. There's a good physical side to his game. He's big.
"Without placing a burden on him, he plays a little like Rob Blake," Chiarelli added. "[He's a] good skater. Good shot. He can make plays on the puck."
Chiarelli need not have worried about putting pressure on Hamilton, who already tries to pattern himself after players like Blake.
"Guys like [Jay] Bouwmeester, Blake, Brent Burns, I think I'm a big, complete defenseman and I can skate well," Hamilton said. "I'm pretty physical and make good passes and contribute offensively as well."
But don't expect Hamilton to be putting up numbers like Bouwmeester, Blake and Burns in the NHL right away. In fact, don't expect to see Hamilton, who just turned 18 on June 17, in the NHL at all right away.
"I'd say he needs a little more development," Chiarelli said. "He's still fairly skinny. He has to be stronger, but you never know. But my guess is he's at least a year away."
That's OK with Hamilton, who is willing to be patient for his chance.
"I have no idea," Hamilton said when asked if he thought he was ready to step right into the NHL next year. "It just depends what the Bruins want to do and I'll be happy with whatever."
Hamilton does want to at least get a chance to skate with the big club, and captain Zdeno Chara in particular, in camp.
"That'd be pretty special," Hamilton said. "I wouldn't be the bigger D partner, that's for sure, but I'm just going to work as hard as I can in the summer and hope for that opportunity."
Hamilton is already 6-foot-4, but needs to fill out his 187-pound frame and add strength to compete against NHLers.
"I've grown a lot in the last couple years and haven't really filled into my body yet," Hamilton said. "I think I'm working hard right now in the gym. I need to work a lot harder and get bigger and that will help with my physical game as well. I think you have to improve everything because the guys in the NHL are a lot better than OHL players."
Though few OHL players were better than Hamilton last year, when he put up 12-46-58 totals in 67 games in the regular season and added a 4-12-16 line in 14 playoff contests. He was also honored as the OHL's Top Academic High School Student, and that intelligence has translated to the ice.
"He's a very smart player, so his decision making, from what I've seen the last couple years has always been good," Chiarelli said. "He had a terrific statistical year. Terrific playoff. Very good range. We're happy to get him."
And Hamilton is happy to come to Boston, or actually back to Boston. The Bruins didn't bring him in for a post-combine visit, but Hamilton was one of the handful of top prospects on hand to watch Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final at the Garden.
"It was a really nice city," Hamilton said. "The rink was nice. The fans were crazy, which was good to see. The atmosphere was really good, and I just loved it there and I’m happy to be going back there.
"We got to go in the room and meet a bunch of the guys, and talk to Tyler Seguin and guys like that, just got to watch the game and pregame skate and it was awesome," Hamilton added. "The fans were basically standing the whole time and cheering, so just that picture is in my head right now and it’s exciting."
With a talented all-around defenseman like Hamilton added to the fold, Bruins fans may just have another reason to cheer soon.
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