The Bruins just may be adding another giant to their blueline this season.
Dougie Hamilton's junior coach expects him to make the Bruins this season. (AP)
Niagara IceDogs (OHL) general manager and head coach Marty Williamson told WEEI.com Tuesday that the team is not expecting to have defenseman Dougie Hamilton back next season. Hamilton, the Bruins’ ninth overall pick in the 2011 draft, had 17 goals and 55 assists for 72 points in 50 games for the IceDogs while playing between 25-28 minutes a night and occasionally logging more than 30 minutes a game.
Junior-aged played (under 20 years old; Hamilton turned 19 this month) can play up to nine games with their NHL team and be sent back to their junior team without a year being burned off their entry-level deal, but Williamson thinks Hamilton, who will headline this week’s development camp, will have a much longer stay in Boston than that.
“He’s NHL-ready. I would not expect him back,” Williamson said. “I know Boston’s on a different program than some teams — they’re winning every year — and maybe that would factor in or something, but I think he’s definitely going to start with them. We’ll see how his NHL career starts, but I sure don’t anticipate him being back.”
Hamilton had 12 goals and 46 assists for 58 points in his draft year in 2010-11, but topped those numbers in 17 less games (he was suspended 10 games for an elbow to the head). Though Hamilton was already elite entering the season, Williamson said his 2011-12 performance was on another level.
“Just a lot of growth in his game,” the coach said of what Hamilton brought. “His decision-making, he really started to use his body with his size and strength to win battles. The year before he was a little more kind reckless to some extent, and he always used his stick, and now he’s really starting to use that body. He was the top defenseman in Canada in the CHL awards, and he did everything for us.”
One area of focus for the 6-foot-4 defenseman has been the process of filling out his frame. He began the season at 193 pounds but was able to finish the season at 198 pounds, with the coach saying that he’s understanding his frame more and “playing a big game.” Williamson noted that it’s easier to add pounds when one isn’t playing every day, and that he would expect Hamilton to be “damn close to that 205, 210″ pounds by the time training camp opens in September.
Williamson used Erik Gudbranson, the player the Panther’s chose third overall in the 2010 draft (after Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin were drafted) to back up his point. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound Gudbranson played 72 games last season as a rookie for Florida, putting up eight points (two goals, six assists).
“[Hamilton]‘s tall and lean, but he’s very strong. I even think that at 200 pounds, he’ll be fine [in the NHL],” Williamson said. “When you look at a Gudbranson last year, he really wasn’t much more than that. Gudbranon’s a good, safe defenseman. I think Dougie’s got a lot more range to his game, that’s why I think he’ll be able to make that transition.
Hamilton was the 2011-12 recipient of the Max Kaminsky Trophy for the OHL’s most outstanding defenseman of the year and was one of the league’s top statistical offensive performers despite missing 18 games. While Williamson doesn’t think the Bruins expect him to run the power play right away, there is enough that he’ll bring to the table in his rookie year.
“I think there’s a growing period with him,” Williamson said. “I think he can be a very safe defenseman right off the bat. I was recently at a coaching seminar at the draft and [Bruins coaches] Geoff Ward and [Doug] Jarvis were there, and I think those are the expectations.
“I really don’t think he’s stepping in as the [power-play] quarterback kind of guy right off the bat. I think he’s a couple years away from that at the NHL level, but I think he can take up minutes, I think he can be safe in his own zone. I think he can add offense. If there’s an area where he’s still got a little bit of growth, it’s probably as that quarterback. I think the rest of his game is pretty solid, but I still think he’s got a little bit of growth. He’s got a good shot, but not maybe a pro, pro shot for a top-unit power play. I think there’s some growth there, that he’ll still develop.”