Hamill making it work for Bruins

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Hamill making it work for Bruins

WILMINGTON Zach Hamill has the kind of perseverance story that people in Boston love.

The 23-year-old didnt meet immediate success when he joined the Boston Bruins organization despite being the No. 8 overall pick in the 2007 Draft, but hes finally carving out a niche for himself in his fourth professional season. Hamill may never be the high-powered, Marc Savard-type center that some thought hed develop into when he was originally targeted following the disastrous Dave Lewis Error, but hes become something of a jack-of-all-trades forward.

It was slightly revealing Monday night when Hamill was in the lineup against the Montreal Canadiens ahead of 20-year-old Jordan Caron, who made the team out of training camp. Theres little denying that Hamill has seized a chance to prove himself by making plays with every opportunity hes been given in six games with the Bs this season: a pair of assists with a plus-5 rating and ice time thats climbed in each of his most recent four games with Boston.

Hamill has forced his way back onto the NHL radar after a pair of mediocre 40-something point AHL seasons.

Hes created a really good situation for himself," coach Claude Julien said. "Hes playing really good hockey every game hes been in with us this year. Its encouraging for us to see a player thats developed. You dont always have to be a great player in your first year, but if you give yourself some time and the organization has been pretty patient with him hes also put in the work to make himself a better player.

Right now hes rewarded us with some solid games. Hes created a nice situation for himself here and were just happy thats hes playing well.

Hamill is developing into the kind of useful player the Bruins can plug into any of their lines at the wing or center, and hes giving them responsible three-zone play and the ability to make plays. The extended audition in Boston will go on a little longer as Hamill was switched from emergency recall to regular recall, and has exactly five more games with Boston before he would need to clear through re-entry waivers.

So Hamill is showing the Bruins and the rest of the NHL what he could offer in a versatile role at an affordable cap hit, and his trade value is rising around the league. Its actually the perfect scenario: Hamill can forge an identity for himself as an NHL-caliber player over a month-long period and the Bruins can buy some time for banged up players like Rich Peverley to keep them fresh.

If Milan Lucic gets banged with a one-game suspension, then here comes Hamill to sponge up some shifts with David Krejci and Nathan Horton.

Hamill wont be going anywhere, of course, while the NHL holiday roster freeze is in effect from now until Dec. 27 a day before the Bruins hit the road to tangle with the Phoenix Coyotes on their first West Coast trip of the season. He picked up power play time along with the shifts alongside Krejci and Horton during the Bs win over the Habs on Monday night a pair of moves by the coaching staff that demonstrate the kind of confidence building in the young player.

In words that will be music to Juliens ears, however, Hamill was kicking himself after the Montreal for letting up a goal while he on the ice for the first time in 10 NHL games with the Bruins.

Its what I really wanted to do -- gain the trust of the coaching staff," Hamill said. "With Looch out it was a chance for me to step up there. I just want to play my game. I came up here and I just wanted to play well in all three zones and I think thats what Ive done. Its something Ive really always taken pride in, not getting scored on. That goal was actually the first against me since Ive been up here. So thats frustrating a little bit.

He now has an assist and a plus-2 in four games during his most recent promotion, and it appears the Bruins have unlocked some of that potential. Hamills increased physical strength and maturity have aided him in his development, but his ability to carry out different tasks on the ice has been at the top of the list.

Hamill can play an energy role or set up natural born scorers with creative playmaking, he can kill penalties with speed and craftiness and the power play off the half-wall seems like a natural fit for someone with his passing abilities.

The Bruins wisely moved him to the wing to start this season in the first of a series of circumstances that have opened things up for Hamill. There was too much quality and too much depth at the NHL level for Hamill to fight through if he was working strictly at center. But his willingness to jump around to different roles and positions speaks volumes about the hunger to earn himself a permanent job in The Show.

Hamill has said in several instances that he wants to remain in Boston even if that means routinely battling for a roster spot or a place in the lineup, but it may get to the point where his value is greater elsewhere in a league where concussions and injuries are opening up opportunities everywhere.

With a high ceiling and a current low price tag entering restricted free agency following the season, Hamill looks like hes playing himself into an NHL role here or elsewhere. The biggest question now is, which NHL team has been watching? Who is going to call on Hamill before hes exposed to re-entry waivers?

Hamill made it through re-entry waivers at the end of training camp this fall, but that doesnt seem like it will be the case again this time around after showing signs that hes beginning to get it before it was too late.

Heinen looking to be dark-horse candidate for Bruins' roster

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Heinen looking to be dark-horse candidate for Bruins' roster

While much of the focus is going to be on the young D-men headed into Bruins training camp, it would be foolhardy to overlook a forward prospect Danton Heinen, who is in position for a real dark horse run at an NHL roster spot. 

The strong odds are that the former University of Denver star is going to be begin the season in the AHL for the Providence Bruins after putting up a couple of points in four games there at the end of last season.

Still, that certainly hasn’t stopped Heinen from setting his sights on an NHL spot out of this fall’s camp, most likely in a third- or fourth-line capacity to start things off, or perhaps at the top-six right wing spots that have given the Bruins some problems filling permanently over the past couple of seasons.

Either way, the 2014 fourth-round pick knows that his clock to fulfilling his dreams as an NHL player has started and that it’s up to him when he can start making that a reality.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to work toward my whole life, so I’m just going to try to keep getting better, have a good rest of the summer and then put my best foot forward to see what happens,” said Heinen, who had an assist and a sweet goal in the Friday scrimmage at development camp when he twisted D-man Cam Clarke around like a pretzel on a nifty rush to the net. “I just need to continue to get stronger this summer, and working on my skating to get a bit quicker.

“[The AHL] was a lot of fun to get in there and see what it was all about. It was a lot different than college hockey, and it was definitely good to get a taste of it. [Bruins officials] told me to have a really big summer getting faster and getting stronger, so that’s what I’ve been doing.”

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Heinen, 21, continued to show in development camp last week, however, that he has the playmaking skills and hockey IQ to flourish while surrounded by more accomplished players and in tighter situations. It’s exactly what he showed while posting 36 goals and 93 points in his freshman and sophomore seasons for the Pioneers and it was what he showed while finishing last week as one of the best forwards in camp.

“He’s looked really good at [development] camp. He’s a smart player, he’s committed and I think you’ll notice him in training camp. It will be up to him, but I think he’ll definitely be pushing some guys [for an NHL job],” said Bruins assistant coach Jay Pandolfo, who was running the Bruins development camp. “He looked good [in Providence]. He fit in well. He’s the type of player that can play with good players because he’s got high hockey IQ, and he’s got really good skill.

“Anywhere you put him he’s smart enough to figure it out. You could tell in his first game there was a little bit of an adjustment for him, but the second time game it really looked like he’d been playing [at that level] for a long time. He’s a quick study, and he looked really good last year.”

The Black and Gold management hope he continues to look good at main NHL training camp in a couple of months, where he’ll undoubtedly be featured, and could be a lot closer than many people think as a polished skill forward coming out of a big-time college hockey program. 

Saturday, July 23: Hammer Time for VP pick Kaine with Caps

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Saturday, July 23: Hammer Time for VP pick Kaine with Caps

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while everybody is working for the weekend...or during the weekend.

*The vice-presidential candidate for Hillary Clinton, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, made quite an impression while hanging out a Capitals game with MC Hammer. They call this guy boring, but that doesn’t sound very boring to me.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Bob Stauffer has the news that the Edmonton Oilers are parting ways with fancy stats lad Tyler Dellow. Boy, it seems like some teams are reversing course pretty quickly on some of these smarter-than-thou advanced statistics types, aren’t they? I certainly wish Dellow well and hope he finds another gig. But Instead of baselessly wondering whether the Oilers are going to continue down the fancy stats road (which they most certainly will), perhaps this is more a referendum on nonsensical stats-driven decisions like handing out that long term contract to a perpetually underachieving Benoit Pouliot.

*The New York Rangers have locked up Chris Kreider to a four-year contract at a reasonable number, and now he has the time with the Blueshirts to see how good he can be.

*Brian Leetch opens up to the Players Tribune about his NHL experiences playing with the New York Rangers, and all of his favorite experiences from a Hall of Fame career.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker says that Carey Price’s injury from last season is no longer a concern, according to Habs coach Michel Therrien.

*The Chicago Blackhawks will appear a whopping 21 times on national television across the NBC Networks next season.

*Incoming BU goaltender Jake Oettinger is among the names to look out for at the 2017 draft, according to the NHL Central Scouting bureau.

*Travis Yost says that the Carolina Hurricanes are on the rise thanks to winning the shot differential battle. I think it’s because they have an outstanding cast of young defensemen, who are helping them control the puck and win that shot differential battle. But they still need to score more if they’re going to really be a team on the rise, so we’ll see what happens there.

*For something completely different: for those that think I’m a Democrat because I am anti-Trump, here’s a story on the DNC machinery attempting to torpedo Bernie Sanders during the presidential campaigning over the last year.
 

 

Friday, July 22: Versteeg headed for Europe

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Friday, July 22: Versteeg headed for Europe

Here are all the hockey links from around the world, and what I’m reading, while vowing to never try to marry the NHL and Pokemon into the same lame story.

*PHT writer James O’Brien has Kris Versteeg one of a number of NHL veteran free agents going to Europe for next season.

*The New York Islanders have reportedly been discussing moving to Queens and building a rink right next to the Mets’ Citi Field. Interesting. I know the Isles fan base was not happy with the setup in Brooklyn last season.

*The Black Knights get the top odds as a moniker for the Las Vegas franchise with a number of funny long shot names.

*Ian Mendes said that it’s pretty clear by the moves of the Ottawa Senators that they believe their time is now.

*Jason Botchford wonders if the Vancouver Canucks have a shot at being a playoff team next season. I hope so for Jim Benning’s sake.

*Ken Campbell wants to know if Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier, now that they’re both retired, are Hall of Fame-worthy players. I say no to both of them, but I can be stingy with my Hall of Fame qualifications as the Jarome Iginla fanboys know so well.

*For something completely different: Jon Stewart brought the funk and the noise while breaking his TV silence on Thursday night and tearing into a GOP that’s coming apart at the seams right now.