Peter Chiarelli didn't get a chance to watch Dougie Hamilton's first game in a Bruins uniform Monday night, but the Boston general manager has been impressed by the early strides the club's top pick has made.
Chiarelli remained in Boston on Monday for the Bruins Foundation Golf Tournament in the morning and the State of the Bruins town hall meeting with season-ticket holders in the evening while Hamilton and the rest of the Bruins rookies went down to Long Island to take on the New York Islanders prospects in a pair of rookie games.
Chiarelli stated at the golf tournament that he'll get a tape of Monday's game to review, and will be on hand to watch Tuesday's matchup in person. It was no doubt an enjoyable viewing for Chiarelli, as the Bruins took an 8-5 win in Monday's game, with Ryan Spooner and Jared Knight each scoring twice and Hamilton chipping in an assist.
That should only bolster the positive impressions the youngsters have made on Chiarelli in the opening days of rookie camp.
"The group of usual suspects seems to be growing a bit," Chiarelli said at the golf tournament. "We saw some of the new draft guys in the summer, but the ones who needed to improve their testing did. We've got a lot more skill now collectively. The Spooners and Knights and [Alexander] Khokhlachevs and Hamiltons, those guys have to be good and they have been good."
Hamilton is expected to be very good when he's fully developed, but that will likely take some time. The ninth overall pick this June, Hamilton, 18, has shown flashes of his skill, but he needs to add strength and have a bit more seasoning before he's ready for the leap to the NHL.
"He's a guy that gets better every day," Chiarelli said. "He's like a sponge. He's got a lot of hockey intelligence anyway, but the stuff that you have to learn to play at the next level is stuff that you only get through experience. You see him every day getting better at the little things. His whole skill set, his size and all that, is terrific anyway, so the standard and expectations for him are high, but it's nice to see that he continues to get better every day."
Hamilton reported to rookie camp weighing 194 pounds, adding six pounds to his 6-foot-5 frame just from July's development camp. But more bulk is likely needed to battle opposing forwards in the NHL.
"People always ask if he's going to be ready for this year," Chiarelli said. "That's a tough one because defense is a tough position to play. He is getting stronger. He's a guy that had a terrific test results in the summer and got better coming into this camp. We're very happy with him."
The Bruins don't have a need to rush Hamilton. They already have a stout defense in place with captain Zdeno Chara, a Norris finalist last season, playoff standout Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference, Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuiad all back and Joe Corvo added to round out the top six. With Steven Kampfer also back and the likes of Matt Bartkowski, Colby Cohen, Ryan Button and David Warsofsky also in the system, the Bruins can be patient with Hamilton.
And Chiarelli hinted that Bruins fans might have to be patient with Hamilton as well when he discussed the top prospect at the State of the Bruins.
"I won't get ahead of myself, he may not be pushing for a job, but he is a terrific young prospect," Chiarelli said to the crowd. "He's a big rangy defenseman and you guys will like what you see there."
Just don't expect to see him in Boston right away, but he should be worth the wait.