WILMINGTON — Zach Hamill has made himself relevant again.
The eighth overall pick in the 2007 draft, Hamill failed to make significant strides in his first three full seasons in the organization, so much so that if you were to google his name, the word “bust” would be the second option on auto-complete.
Now, Hamill has turned things around, making a home for himself in Boston with strong play in place of injured forwards at various points this season. With Tuesday’s move that sent 2009 first-rounder Jordan Caron back to Providence, the 23-year-old Hamill has now established himself as the team’s extra forward.
There’s a bit of irony in that, as Providence coach Bruce Cassidy actually called Hamill out this summer, referencing the fact that younger players (Caron is 20) were making the team over him, and that he had yet to meet expectations.
“At the end of the day, when you’re in your fourth year in the same organization, it falls upon yourself just to push people,” Cassidy said of Hamill. “I think the individual has to recognize what’s going on around him. A few people have passed him and it’s time for him to start passing a couple of younger guys that have come in the last couple of years. And whether he’s ready to do that, we’ll find out in September.”
Hamill didn’t need to hear Cassidy’s words to realize the situation. He was well aware of it when Caron made the team out of camp last season, while Hamill didn’t even make the trip to Europe.
“I’m a smart enough person that I can see that,” Hamill said of the fact that he was being surpassed by younger players. “I see those kind of things, but at the same time you don’t want to look too much into it. The more you look into it, the more you drive yourself crazy. ‘¦ There’s been encouraging words along the way, but there are obviously ups and downs, so every day it’s different, but you try to keep an even keel.”
Hamill doesn’t like to think of it as a competition between he and Caron, but he does admit to watching Caron make the team over him as motivation. Factor in that each year without Hamill on the roster meant more chatter that the Bruins’ may have missed on such a high pick, and there were plenty of things to motivate the youngster.
“Obviously that motivation sometimes pushes you,” Hamill said. “Sometimes there are words that you don’t like, but at the same time, you can’t think too much of it. There obviously were times where I’ve been doing something, and I know in the back of my mind that it’s there. It’s definitely something that I don’t forget, but I try not to focus on it too much.”
Coach Claude Julien  said after Tuesday’s practice that the team feels comfortable with Hamill as its 13th forward given how much time he’s put in in the minors. In eight games for the B’s this season, Hamill has two assists, and has seen time on both the power play and penalty kill. Though he figures to be a healthy scratch for the time being, it’s quite surprising that he’s able to claw his way onto the roster. When the Bruins, who were known for their depth, signed Benoit Pouliot, had Chris Clark in for a tryout and had Caron vying for a bigger role, Hamill didn’t worry about how he’d end up where he is now. Instead he focused on waiting for the opportunity and turning it into a bigger opportunity.
Said Hamill of his mindset: “A lot of good todays end up with good tomorrows.”
While Hamill’s yesterdays had people writing him off, his todays have gotten him to the NHL  for an extended stay.