The Boston Bruins were fortunate Dougie Hamilton fell to them at the No. 9 pick in the 2011 NHL draft.
Hamilton had just finished a 58-point season for the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs, and many draft analysts felt he was a top-five talent and possibly the best blueliner in the class.
Defensemen normally take longer than forwards to develop into everyday NHL players, but through 106 games with the B’s, Hamilton has been an exception.
After tallying 25 points (seven goals, 18 assists) in 64 games last season — his first 82-game campaign at the pro level — Hamilton was one of Boston’s best players in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, finishing with seven points (two goals, five assists) in 12 games. He also received a lot of ice time against top competition and handled himself well in high-pressure situations.
Hamilton is poised to play a significant role in Boston’s success this season, and he’s impressed in training camp and the preseason so far. He was a bright spot in Saturday night’s 3-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena, scoring a goal and playing a role on both special teams units.
“I think, again, the games he’s playing in the preseason have been really good games,” Julien told reporters after Saturday’s victory, per the team’s website. “So it’s exciting to see a young player like that finding his confidence, and not just in the playmaking department, but also in the strength and physical part of it. He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now, and it’s showing. Where we project him to be, he’s on the right track right now.”
Hamilton’s skill set is a valuable one. He blends elite offensive skill (powerful shot, great playmaking ability, high hockey IQ, etc.) with great size (6-foot-5, 212 pounds) and a defensive game that’s steadily improving. He also creates a lot of scoring chances on the power play with his passing and willingness to put pucks on net whenever possible.
The 21-year-old is quickly developing a fantastic all-around skill set, and Julien is pleased with his progress.
“We’ve been looking for a guy like him for a long time,” Julien said. “A guy that can move the puck, a guy who can skate the puck up the ice. Not only that, he’s got size. It’s a real luxury to have a big defenseman with that much mobility and that much vision. He makes great plays, good heads up plays and he’s a great asset on offense and on defense he continues to improve, and get bigger and stronger. He’s turning into a really good overall defenseman.”
The goal for Hamilton this season to continue improving defensively, and use the strength he added in the summer to play a more physical game in his own zone.
“I feel pretty good. Physically I feel stronger, skating and everything. I think I’m a little bit faster,” Hamilton said Sunday. “Just more confident with the puck. I just need to keep improving on that, and keep improving on my D-zone.”
“This summer I worked pretty hard on (skating) and my stride and everything, and in off-ice workouts as well. I think it’s important to improve skating all the time. As a young player, I think it’s important to get better every year and not get satisfied with what you have and always keep improving.”
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