While his rookie year was full of the usual ups and downs, Dougie Hamilton has a chance to be a difference maker for the Boston Bruins in his second year. The Bruins have high hopes for former ninth overall pick Hamilton, and this season could be the perfect time for him to step up. With veteran defenseman Andrew Ference now playing for the Edmonton Oilers, Hamilton will get an opportunity to shine for the Bruins. Hamilton is in prime position to make a sophomore jump and become an impact player on Boston’s blue line.
Dougie Hamilton’s first season in the NHL left no doubt that the kid has enough talent to succeed in this league. Hamilton looks more than comfortable running the point on the Bruins’ powerplay, and Boston’s brass is already impressed with his ability to skate the puck out of the defensive zone. Putting up 16 points in 42 games (a quarter of which came on the powerplay) is no small feat for a rookie NHL defensemen, especially one fighting for ice time on the league’s third ranked defense. But consistency is what matters most at the highest level, and Hamilton struggled with both the increased speed and the increased size of his opponents on the NHL level.
The Bruins still believe the sky is the limit for Hamilton, who has all the tools to become an elite defenseman in this league. The biggest knock on Hamilton (besides his lack of experience) is his size: while he has the height (6’5”), he hasn’t quite filled out yet and weighs in at only 193 pounds. Hamilton likes to play physical, and it certainly worked for him with the OHL’s Niagara Ice Dogs, but he needs to get bigger if he wants that to transfer to the NHL. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has already compared Hamilton’s game to that of Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks, and Bruins fans would be ecstatic if they get anything close to that out of the 20-year-old.
Though 2012-13 saw Hamilton’s game grow by leaps and bounds, the 20-year-old admitted that the ending to his season wasn’t exactly ideal. Hamilton was a healthy scratch for the Bruins’ final 11 games of the playoffs, and that speaks to just how much pressure and accountability comes with playing in coach Claude Julien’s defensive system. But if Hamilton can continue to get better in his own end, his offensive ability can bring another dimension that the Bruins defensive corps has been missing for quite some time now. It’s been over a decade since a Bruins defensemen not named Zdeno Chara racked up more than 50 points in a year. That’s the kind of talent the Bruins see in Hamilton.
If the Boston Bruins plan on making another deep playoff run this season, Dougie Hamilton needs to be on the ice and not in the press box. We should know pretty early if Hamilton’s offseason work is paying off, and having a full season (instead of the compressed, strike-shortened season of 2012-13) can only help. Hamilton has the offensive ability to make the Bruins a tough team to defend against, and if he can bring the consistent defensive presence that Julien demands, this team will be hard to beat. For Dougie Hamilton, this year could be the year he makes the jump.