Despite it being early on in the season, rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton is showing the Bruins early signs that he will be an all star in the future.
Coming into training camp, head coach Claude Julien and GM Peter Chiarelli both stated that the open spot on defense was Hamilton's to lose. Hamilton arrived at Ristuccia Arena after racking up eight goals and 33 assists for 41 points for the OHL's Niagara Ice Dogs and showed the team that he was ready to take the next step to the NHL.
The Bruins opened the season against the New York Rangers, pairing Hamilton with steady stay at home defenseman Dennis Seidenberg on the second defensive pairing, below Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk. However, with Seidenberg injured for Monday's game against Winnipeg, Hamilton was paired with Chara. Forced to step up and play a bigger role, Hamilton rose to the occasion, logging 23:27 in ice time (10 minutes more than he played against New York) and making the smart, little plays that show the Bruins the kind of potential the former ninth overall pick has.
"I feel good", Hamilton said after Monday's shootout win over Winnipeg. "I felt pretty comfortable today. I know that's easy when you play with (Chara) and (Seidenberg) too, but I think that's good for me to develop and get better from here."
While it doesn't show up on the score sheet, the rookie played a huge part in Brad Marchand's game tying goal. He stayed in the passing lane, preventing Tobias Enstrom from making a break out pass and allowing Tyler Seguin to steal the puck and slide it to Marchand, who beat goalie Ondrej Pavelec on the backhand.
"He was put in a tougher position today than he was in his first game with (Dennis) Seidenberg out, and Aaron (Johnson) coming in and playing his first game, he had a bigger role to play", said head coach Claude Julien of his young defenseman after Monday's game. "I thought that even in the second half, I noticed he was making even better plays with the puck than he had so far. I think that's confidence coming around and experience, and he's starting to feel his way through these games. That's pretty impressive for a young player."
Teammate Andrew Ference had high praises for Hamilton as well. "He's jumping right in. Especially tonight, (Dennis) Seidenberg was out, so he had to get some extra minutes and some situations he was probably thrown into before the coaches expected. He's got great raw talent and a good head for the game as far as seeing guys and moving the puck well. It's been a lot smoother than my first couple of games, so it's impressive."
Playing with Zdeno Chara did a lot for Hamilton as well. While Chara makes anyone look better than they really are, it was hard not to notice Hamilton's talent. "It's awesome", he said of playing with the captain. "I think when Wheeler hit me and then came up his side and then Zee laid him out, I think that was unreal. I had an instant smile on my face after that. It's real easy playing with him, and really pretty cool."
While it's yet to be seen how Hamilton will stand up to the pressures of an NHL season, especially in a shortened one where every game matters, he's shown that he can and will be a top flight defensive talent, and he will be one of the team's centerpieces as they move forward into the future.Back to the NHL Newsfeed