Hamilton already proving he belongs with Bruins

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Hamilton already proving he belongs with Bruins

If there were such a thing as NHL report cards then incoming freshman Dougie Hamilton would be getting straight As from the Boston Bruins after his first two appearances in Black and Gold.

The 19-year-old rookie was solid and unspectacular in his debut over the weekend after being dropped in a playoff-style atmosphere against the Rangers, and thats probably the best one could expect. But Hamilton took another step forward on Monday when more was asked of him after Dennis Seidenberg went down with a lower body injury, and couldnt answer the bell against Winnipeg.

Instead Hamilton was bumped up to the top defensemen pairing with Zdeno Chara, and that meant several things to the youngster.

It meant more responsibility and more ice time with the captain thats helping him learn the position at the NHL level, and more of a challenge facing the other teams best offensive talent. It also meant more ice time with players closer to his level than the man among boys setting hed been playing in with the Niagara IceDogs over the last two seasons.

Talking to him, he doesnt seem uncomfortable at all. Its not the pace thats going to bother him, because hes a great skater. He can keep up with the pace. Everything just happens a little bit quicker, which hes doing fine with, said Andrew Ference. He can move the puck, and I think he mentioned it as well; its almost easier to play at this level because all your teammates are in such good position.

Thats the biggest difference between this league and every other league: guys do have such good positional hockey awareness. Hes able to jump in with his skill set a lot easier than a guy thats just working hard because hes got the raw talent.

When the 19-year-old is excited about something, its likely to be some combination of cool, awesome or great. That kind of unfettered enthusiasm from a hockey-loving youngster is refreshing in a veteran dressing room like the Bruins, and speaks to just how much the former first round pick is relishing his opportunity.

Its really cool. I think when you can see that and just want to play better, said Hamilton. Every time youre out on the ice youve got to realize who youre playing against and just try and play your best and not let them score.

I didnt really come in with expectations, so everything that Im getting Im really excited about. I just want to make the most of the opportunity and do my best. Thats all I can do.

As opposed to keeping a low profile offensively as he did Saturday night, Hamilton even jumped up to join the offensive rush a few times and was robbed on a golden scoring by Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec in the first period. It was the exact proper read with one of the Bruins forwards down low helping Zdeno Chara break the puck out of the zone, and it allowed Hamilton jumped ahead on the rush and kept the offensive pressure on the Jets.

Thats exactly the kind of offensedefense the Bruins envision for Hamilton as he develops into a franchise-type defenseman capable of playing in all areas during all situations.

Logging 23:27 of ice time paired with Zdeno Chara and finishing with three shots on net and three hits along with a blocked shot in his second NHL game showed Bruins coach Claude Julien everything he could hope to see.

He was put in a tougher position today than he was in his first game, with Dennis Seidenberg out and Aaron Johnson playing his first game, said Julien. He had a bigger role to play. Even in the second half, I noticed that he was making better plays with the puck than he had so far. I think thats his confidence coming around. Hes starting to feel his way through these games, and thats pretty impressive for a young player.

Theres still the technical question of whether Hamilton will remain with the Bruins through his fifth game of the season, and go past the threshold when he could be returned to his OHL team in Niagara. Its an option the Bruins have if Hamilton struggled against NHL competition or seemed over his head in the strength department. The Bruins could even opt to return Hamilton if they decided the short 48-game regular season wasnt worth burning the first year of Hamiltons three-year entry level contract.

But none of that is anything close to reality after the teen-aged Hamilton has shown he can skate, pass, shoot and play with anybody as one of the youngest players in the NHL this season.

To me hes on our team, hes a player Im relying on until they tell me that hes not going to be here anymore, said Julien.

Dont expect anybody in the Bruins organization to tell Hamilton that he has to leave Boston for a long, long time after two games of overwhelming proof that he belongs now, next year and 10 years into the future.

Saturday, Aug. 27: Adding toughness Habs' priority

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Saturday, Aug. 27: Adding toughness Habs' priority

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, after a busy morning celebrating my 3-year-old’s birthday at the trampoline park. Yee-ha.

*PHT writer Joey Alfieri says that adding toughness was a big offseason priority for the Montreal Canadiens.

*There’s at least one big fan of the Edmonton Oilers trade that brought defenseman Adam Larsson from the New Jersey Devils, and that fan’s name is Mark Letestu.

*Here’s everything you need to know about the Ice Guardians movie premiering this fall that takes a long, balanced look at the NHL enforcers.

*Roberto Luongo has an alibi for the robbery in Winnipeg with one suspect getting away in goalie equipment, and it’s funny as you would expect it to be.

*CSN Washington takes a look at the New York Rangers in their season previews for the Metro Division.

*I’m not entirely sure whether this “RIP Harambe” thing is genuine or meant to be ironic by the largely millenial group that seem so enamored with it, but I think it’s just stupid. I think the same with the crying Jordan meme…also stupid.

*For something completely different: a look at how Triumph the Insult Comic Dog learned how to poop on Trump’s politics.

 

Countdown to camp: Danton Heinen

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Countdown to camp: Danton Heinen

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From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2016-17 Bruins. Today: Danton Heinen.

Danton Heinen exploded into a high-profile prospect for the Bruins after finishing among the NCAA’s top scoring players a couple of years ago as a freshman along with a couple of guys named Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin. 

Since then, Heinen has continued to produce offense at the University of Denver and continued to create offense that leads to points. Now, the 21-year-old Heinen will be entering the professional arena for his first full season with the Bruins and he’ll be attempting to transition from the prospect phase to a regular gig in the NHL. That’s the challenge for a talented player who appears headed into a very good opportunity in NHL training camp.

 

What happened last year

Heinen was every bit as explosive in his second season for Denver as he was in his brilliant freshman campaign. He improved on his scoring with 20 goals and 48 points in 41 games. Then Heinen signed with the Bruins at the end of his sophomore season and played in a couple of pro games in the AHL with Providence as a tune-up for this first full pro campaign with the Bruins organization. Heinen finished with two assists and a plus-1 rating in four games with the P-Bruins and showed the coaches in Providence that he was ready to play and produce with more talented players. If Heinen surprised a little bit as a breakout freshman two years ago, his sophomore follow-up in Denver last season proved to everybody that he wasn’t a fluke.

 

Questions to be answered this season

The real question surrounding Heinen is about his ceiling as an NHL player and just how good he can become as a player with the skills and playmaking abilities to be a top-six forward. He’s proven he can dominate at the collegiate level while admittedly playing with some pretty good teammates at Denver. Heinen showed at the end of the season in Providence that the pro scene might not be much different for him. At this point, Heinen simply needs to go out and prove it against the best players in the world and show that his speed, playmaking and hockey sense are all elite in the AHL or NHL. Heinen’s biggest obstacle might be his size. He'll need to survive as a targeted skill player despite not being much more than the 6-feet, 180-pound range for a forward. It’s about average for a playmaking wing in the NHL, but the hits and attention will be at a much more intense level than anything he faced in the NCAA world.

 

What they're saying

“He’s the type of player that he can play with good players because he’s got high hockey IQ and he’s got really good skill. I think anywhere you put him, he’s smart enough to figure it out. I think you’ll notice him during training camp. It will definitely be up to him, but I think he’ll push some guys.” –Bruins assistant coach Jay Pandolfo on Heinen during last month’s development camp where Heinen soared as a performer.

 
Outlook

While Heinen still has some things he’ll need to prove before he’s a regular contributor for the Bruins, he comes into the Boston fold as an experienced player following two very good seasons at the college level. So, Heinen should be a little closer to plug-and-play for Claude Julien than some of the other young players that have come through the system in the past couple of years. Heinen will still need to flash in camp while being handed a big spot to perform with high-end veterans Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Brad Marchand potentially off playing in the World Cup of Hockey. Heinen also has a much greater chance of winning an NHL job sooner rather than later after the Bruins lost out on the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes and still have a top-six forward opening that somebody is going to fill. Heinen and Frank Vatrano are the two biggest favorites to fill that position, which became vacant when Loui Eriksson departed for Vancouver. Whichever winger loses that battle should be also be a strong candidate for a role on the third line, as well, barring any late veteran signings by the B’s. That set of circumstances leaves a very good situation for Heinen to potentially walk into with the Black and Gold, but he'll still have to show he’s fully capable of seizing his good fortune and good timing.