While its natural to think that 19-year-old Dougie Hamilton is going to face his biggest challenge manning up against bigger, stronger, crazier opponents bearing down on him in the battle zones within his own end of the ice, the young defenseman has his own ideas. With the NHL season-opener finally on tap and intense, hard-charging forwards like Ryan Callahan ready to invade the TD Garden ice along with the rest of the Blueshirts, Hamilton said that making the jump from the OHL to the NHL will allow to battle a little bit more himself.
The 6-foot-5, 199-pound Hamilton has a big frame that will allow him to pack on much more muscle as he fills out, and he has a long reach with his stick that will frustrate opponents defensively if he has the proper technique and position. But the former first round pick also felt that refs watched him closely in the OHL because he so much bigger than many opponents he matched up against.
That kind of scrutiny allowed him less chance to unleash his physical play, and in theory should free him defensively in the corners and in front of the net.
This is a day Ive been waiting for and looking forward to, and Im excited to get it going. Theres adrenaline and thats something you get used to, but Im just going to go out there, smile and have as much fun as I can, said Hamilton, who had 41 points and a plus-24 in 32 games for the Niagara IceDogs this season. There are a few things that will be different than Im used to, but it was nice to get into that scrimmage on Tuesday night. I can visualize it a bit now.
The battle level is different, and for meI like that. At times cross-checking guys and things like that you cant do in the OHL because youll get a penalty. Thats something Ive got to get used to: what I can get away with and what I can do. Its another thing Ill adjust to.
On the other side of the coin, however, Hamilton could get the rookie treatment, and that means getting sent to the penalty box early and often by referees if he takes too many liberties with aggressive opponents. But thats the balancing act a talented young defenseman must perform while learning his craft, and its something hell only learn through on-the-job training.
With an opening night spot in the Bs lineup skating with Dennis Seidenberg and a point position on the teams second power play unit, Hamilton will get a good, long look from the Bruins.
Hes a pretty good all-around defenseman, and what hes got to do is just gain some experience, said Claude Julien. That can only be done with time. We all know hes got the size, we all know that he can move the puck well, we all know he skates well and hes got great hockey sense.
Where is his weakness? The only weakness hes got is the lack of experience and weve got to allow him to get that. We like where he is and what hes brought so far. Weve seen a lot of guys the same way he has and done well, and we expect him to be that kind of guy.
The NHL apprenticeship for the teen-aged Hamilton begins tonight against the Rangers, and its expected to be a crowd-pleaser here in Boston.