Bruins rookies reported to Ristuccia Arena on Friday to formally kick off the start of another season as the reigning Stanley Cup champions got back to work. None of the 22 youngsters on hand for Friday's fitness testing and first practice played a role in that championships, but the Cup was certainly on all of their minds.
Having a newly erected 7,000-pound statue of the Cup displayed outside the practice facility will have that effect, though the Bruins hopefuls didn't need much prompting to think about the franchise's latest accomplishment.
"It's pretty special, you feel like asking them, 'Let's see your ring' or 'How was it winning the Cup?' and they could be your teammates, so it's kind of weird like that," Bruins 2011 first-round pick Dougie Hamilton said. "It's been pretty special with this whole organization with what they've done."
Hamilton was the ninth overall pick this June, the final piece of the Phil Kessel trade that also yielded Tyler Seguin and Jared Knight for the Bruins in a 2009 deal with Toronto. Hamilton knows that he's in a special situation, as not many top-10 picks get to come to a championship team.
"I think it's a little different," Hamilton said. "They're the top-place team and they're coming into the season as the top team. That's a little different for top-10 picks. Usually they're on bottom teams, but I'm not too worried about that though. I'm just here to have fun and play good."
Hamilton won't be rushed by the Bruins, who have their defense largely set for the upcoming season, though he hasn't conceded his chances to win a spot this year just yet.
"No, I just want to come in and play my best," Hamilton said. "Obviously there's a lot of good d-men, but I think I'm just going to show my stuff and what I can do. Whatever they want to do with me, that's what I'll do."
Hamilton's goals for his first pro camp are pretty simple, and while he won't give up on his dream of making the leap straight to the NHL, the 18-year-old defenseman understands he'll likely return to his junior team in the Ontario Hockey League for more seasoning.
"Just getting better," Hamilton said of his goals this week. "Obviously when you're playing with older guys that are faster and stronger you learn from that and you learn to make quicker plays and you just get more comfortable. If I go back to Niagara I'll gain a lot from that and it will seem a lot easier."
Hamilton has made strides even from his first taste of professional hockey at July's development camp, adding a half-dozen pounds to his lanky 6-foot-5 frame.
"He looked real good [Friday] I thought," Bruins assistant general manager Jim Benning said. "He's skating real well. From the summer he weighed in at 188. He was 194 [on Friday], so he put on five to six pounds of muscle. He's a young player and he'll continue to get stronger and bigger. He's going to be a good player. It's just going to be a matter of time with him."
And the Bruins will give him all the time he needs. Hamilton will get a chance to play in a pair of rookie games against the New York Islanders prospects on Long Island on Monday and Tuesday, and then the club will evaluate how much time he will spend in the main camp and whether they will expose him to any NHL preseason action at this stage of his development.
"We don't want to put him in a situation that he can't handle," Benning said. "We're going to evaluate all the players in these two games we have against the Islanders. There will be players from this group that will be invited to the main camp. They'll see how they do in the main camp and from there the coaches and [general manager] Peter [Chiarelli] will decide if they're going to play in exhibition games or not. That's still a long ways off."
Hamilton's arrival in Boston is likely even longer away, but with a championship squad already assembled, the Bruins have no reason to hurry the development of their top prospect.
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