Hamilton adjusting to NHL on and off the ice

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Hamilton adjusting to NHL on and off the ice

The season-long education of 19-year-old Dougie Hamilton continues to roll on in Boston.

While the rookie blueliner isnt admitting that hes slammed into any kind of rookie roadblock in a first NHL campaign sure to have both bumps and triumphs, Hamilton did admit there have been some significant adjustments.

Whats been the biggest change for Hamilton in the NHL?

Its been positioning and coverage in the defensive zone at the pro level. In his junior days with the Niagara IceDogs things were a little more chaotic in the defensive zone. There was less structure and strict positioning at the junior hockey level, so obviously there was less required of a guy like Hamilton. Hes fallen back into OHL mode at times this season for the Bruins, and left the net vacant to chase after puck carriers leading to goals against.

Thats something the coaching staff has been in constant discussions with the rookie about through this season consistent with a young player going through the NHL for the first time.

One of the mottos I use with our system all the time is that they will come to you, said Claude Julien. You dont have to run all over the place. If youre playing your position then eventually somebody will come into that area. There are times when hes tried a little too hard and found himself out of position. Thats where he gets into trouble.

I told him once he gets used to it and it becomes second nature it will go a lot easier on his game. You can make less of an effort, but be in the right position and get more out of it. Then you can be fresher when you really need to push on the attack. Hes a smart individual and hes catching on quickly.

There are specific places where a defenseman needs to be in Claude Juliens system. Its usually camped directly in front of the net protecting the Bs goaltender and forming a human wall between the shooter and the net.

Learning the system has been different. Its different in the NHL than it is in the OHL, said Hamilton. Its more controlled in your own end here. I think Ive done a pretty good job with it, but talking to assistant coach Doug Houda has helped me out a lot. Im still trying to learn some things.

In the OHL its a little all over the place and sometimes guys are out of position more doing individual stuff. Here its more team stuff where you need to be in the right place and always be an option. I definitely like it better here.

Though he hasnt registered a point in the last six games and is a minus-3 over that time, the defenseman said hes playing exactly the same game. Hamilton is trying to make that smart first pass to jump-start the transition game and create rebounds with his quick punch shot from the point. The points just havent been pouring in like they were in the first handful of games, but Hamilton didnt sounds like he was panicked.

I still feel like Im playing the exact same way as I did earlier this season, said Hamilton, who has four assists and is a minus-3 in 11 games while averaging 18:53 of ice time. Whether the passes arent working or pucks arent getting on net for rebounds so you can get assists there, Im still playing the same way. Im pretty happy with how Im doing.

I thought my last game against the Rangers was good. Obviously there were a couple of shifts where you wish you had done things a little differently, but something like that happens in every game. I dont think Im in a valley now and I dont think I was at a peak before. I think Im just playing the same way I have all year. Im just trying to improve on my mistakes and thats what you would expect from a 19-year-old.

Its not all on the ice for Hamilton as a rookie in the NHL, however.

One area where Hamilton is enjoying a smooth transition is in his living arrangements after moving into Adam McQuaids condo in Charlestown at the start of the season. The 19-year-old said he spends a fair amount of time sitting on the couch watching television when hes not on the road or at the arena, but he still appreciates the 26-year-old McQuaid showing him the ropes of being a pro hockey player.

There has been a lot of TV and couch time at home which I like a lot, said Hamilton. Its great to have him around, and hes helped me with cooking, how to use the dishwasher and how to do laundry. He did everything as far as cooking for the first few days, but Ive been trying to get in there a little more. Its been really good so far.

Coming into the season I wasnt sure what to expect: where I was going to live or how I was going to be able to do it without my parents. So far Im enjoying it and havent had any problems.

Its been just as rewarding for McQuaid, who welcomed Hamilton to his single guys pad by cooking him his rugged defenseman specialty: spiced chicken and mashed potatoes. The Bruins defenseman said watching Hamilton go through his first NHL experience almost makes him feel like hes a rookie doing it all over again as well.

Its fun to have him around. He doesnt really need me to show him a whole lot, but Im there if he has any questions. Our personalities are pretty similar too, so we get along well, said McQuaid. Ive been saying that maybe I can show him a few things off the ice, and he can show me a few things on the ice.

For him at his age just playing at this level and everything that goes along with that while trying to live on your ownit can be a lot. I just try to show him the odd thing here or there. When everything is new to someone and youre going through it with them, its almost like youre doing it over again yourself. Its not the exact same thing, but its like when people have kids: they get to go through the excitement through their kids of the things that they loved as kids.

Watching a teenager going through the NHL experience for the first time isnt just energizing and refreshing for McQuaid, however. It brings out a young enthusiasm in the entire Bs hockey club, and thats above and beyond the talent that the 19-year-old has already exhibited in his first month of NHL action.

The Dougie effect has been a very good thing for the Bruins even as its a work in progress.

Heinen coming up big with Bruins' roster openings on the wing

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Heinen coming up big with Bruins' roster openings on the wing

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Danton Heinen has to know he’s got a fair shot to win an NHL job out of B’s training camp if he plays with confidence and assertiveness. 

So far, that little Black and Gold carrot has served him well in the preseason. The 21-year-old winger has scored a goal in each of his first two preseason appearances for the Bruins. He will be pushed back into the lineup again vs. the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night.

The difference this time around is Claude Julien will be behind the bench once again for the Bruins after his time with the World Cup of Hockey and the B’s lineup will start to take on more of a real NHL feel with David Pastrnak and David Backes entering the mix.

Julien has liked what he’s seen thus far out of the University of Denver product, and clearly he’ll keep getting looks as long as the production and good work ethic are there.

“I think he’s been a real good player. He’s a smart player that seems to be heady and sees the play well. He seems to be in the right place and understands the game,” said Julien. “The hockey sense is something that you either have or you don’t, and I think he has great hockey sense. It certainly makes a great hockey player. I’ve liked him so far and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him.”

One other thing is certain: wing positions are open on the roster with Frankie Vatrano out for three months and Jimmy Vesey sharpening his skates at Madison Square Garden as a New York Ranger.

“We have to keep an open mind.  Frank Vatrano is hurt, and we kind of felt that he was going to have a really good start to this year. His confidence seemed to be at its highest, and the World Championships were good for him,” said Julien. “We have to look at what we have for a replacement. We went after Jimmy Vesey and we didn’t get him. So there are some spots that are open, and there’s no doubt about it.

“I’m going to be looking at compete level and I’ll be watching for the next three games to see who can fit in those spots. There are open spots, so it’s not cut-and-dried like a lot of years when it has been.”

Clearly, the high-end offensive skill is there after posting 36 goals and 93 points in his first two years at the University of Denver prior to going pro, and Heinen has a dollop of pro experience after getting into three AHL games with Providence at the end of last season. 

The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder showed off the playmaking ability setting up his teammates for chances in Friday night’s win over the Red Wings, and then finally scoring at crunch time in the third period when the coaching staff moved Zach Senyshyn to his opposite wing.

Both of his goals in this preseason have been tying scores in the third that factored prominently in the game’s outcome. That’s been impressive for a young prospect in his very first NHL camp.

But Heinen claims there is still more to come in his game, and that’s encouraging. He’s just starting to get comfortable as a player that uses his vision, hockey IQ and passing to generate loads of scoring chances when he’s on the ice.

“I feel pretty good. I’ve felt better as things have gone on, and I felt better [on Friday against Detroit] than I did in the first game,” said Heinen, who finished just behind a couple of guys named Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin for the NCAA scoring title as a freshman a couple of years ago. “I just need to keep getting better. I think I have a lot more to give. I’m just trying to put my best foot forward, and we’ll see what happens.

“I think I’ve rushed a few plays where I feel like I could hang onto [the puck] and make a smarter play. So it’s little things like that. As I play a little more then I get more comfortable hanging onto it, so I hope to do a little more than that.”

It will also be interesting to see how Heinen responds to again being in the B’s lineup on Saturday for back-to-back, physical preseason games when the NCAA schedule can be a bit more spaced with weekend games. 

There are other candidates like Jake DeBrusk and Zachary Senyshyn that have enjoyed solid training camps to date for the Bruins, but it feels like Heinen is starting to push ahead for one of those winger roster spots Julien has in mind as he watches these final four exhibition games leading into the regular season. 
 

Saturday, Oct. 1: Vesey's New York state of mind

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Saturday, Oct. 1: Vesey's New York state of mind

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while gearing up for Big Papi weekend.

 
*A “behind-the-scenes” look as Jimmy Vesey was sold on the New York Rangers, but there’s not too much detail about the pitches from the other teams. Feels pretty apparent at this point that Vesey wanted to live, and work, in New York City.

*Damien Cox says that the World Cup of Hockey better get it right the next time, or else…or else what, Damien? You’re going to block them on Twitter?

*PHT writer Joey Alfieri has Patrick Kane, Erik Karlsson and P.K. Subban making their preseason debuts on Saturday. David Backes and David Pastrnak will play their first preseason games for the Bruins as well.  

*It’s a complicated, strange story with Vladimir Sobotka, the KHL and the contract he seemingly can’t get out of to again play for the St. Louis Blues.

*Oliver Ekman-Larsson is ready to get back to work with the Arizona Coyotes after his World Cup experience.

*San Jose Sharks prospect Timo Meier is out for the next month with mono, which is definitely worse timing than Zach Senyshyn getting hit with the mononucleosis bomb over the summer.

*A quick look at the Philadelphia Flyers in advance of their preseason meeting with the Black and Gold tonight, which won’t be televised.

*For something completely different: there will be some pretty funky stuff happening on The Walking Dead this season.