While the bulk of the discussion this week will be about fresh-faced hockey prospects that the Bruins intend on selecting this weekend at the NHL Draft in Pittsburgh, its full speed ahead for the crown jewel of last years Boston draft class.
Dougie Hamilton pushed his Niagara junior into the Memorial Trophy playoffs in a season he was named the OHLs best defenseman, and he proved just about everything possible in a breakout campaign at 18 years old.
The Bruins watched all of this unfold over the year while Joe Corvo struggled at the NHL level amidst an otherwise solid 'D' corps. So the expectation and hope is that Hamilton the No. 9 overall pick in the 2011 draft and the final piece gained from the Phil Kessel deal with Toronto will make the Bruins out of training camp provided he proves he belongs in the NHL as a teenager.
He also might be a little bigger than people remember. Hes sprouted another inch as a 6-foot-6 defenseman, and he can skate with a seemingly unfair level of speed and dexterity.
What are we going to see at training camp? Were going to see a kid thats grown and matured . . . and is stronger, said Chiarelli of Hamilton, who turned 19 years old last weekend. He was strong when he got here, but hes become an even stronger and more confident kid.
Thats no easy feat, but the Bruins feel the same about Hamilton as they did about Tyler Seguin entering his first NHL training camp. The 6-foot-6 defenseman was so big, strong and dominant that the Bruins worry another man against boys season in the OHL could open the door for bad habits to creep into his game.
Theres not much more to prove when you put up 72 points in 50 games as a defenseman and then toss up another 23 points in 20 playoff games.
Hamilton was a two-way force capable of playing shutdown defense and posting obscenely large offensive numbers, and he looks ready to be harvested by the NHL parent club.
"One of the things when we were deciding on keeping Tyler Seguin a couple of years ago was the question 'What are we going to gain by sending him back to junior hockey?' " said Chiarelli. "Will he get into bad habits because he can do things more easily down there than hed be able to at the NHL level?
That was one of our reasons for keeping Tyler up here. It may be that we have to apply the same approach to Dougie. We look for big, strong D and guys that can think the game. Thats what he does. Im not going to say that I expect him to make the team. But I would like him to make the team because hes a good player.
Theres also the element of allowing Hamilton in with an experienced group of blueliners like Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference, Johnny Boychuk, Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid. Those will be some of the best teachers he could have, and theyll all be among his defensemen corps next season should he be in Boston.
"Its hard to play defense in the NHL and hes going to need time," Chiarelli said. "There will be every opportunity for him to play in the National Hockey League next year. Hes a terrific young player and a terrific young kid. I saw him a couple of times in the spring and in Calgary at World Junior. Before he was suspended for a hit to the head he was threatening for the league scoring lead in the OHL. He is a very good prospect for us.
It sounds like hell be going from Bs prospect to bona fide player in the matter of a couple of months.