BOSTON -- The Dougie Hamilton hype machine was at full power over the first handful of games this season, but the fanfare has died down a little bit for the 19-year-old over the last few weeks.
Thats because the rookie defenseman has gone scoreless over the last five games with a minus-2 rating that includes a two-game stretch on the road in Toronto and Montreal where he managed only a single shot on net. The teenager still played more than 19 minutes in four out of those five games and was among Bostons top four defensemen.
But it is also fair to say Hamilton is still learning the ropes at the NHL level and going through one of those typical rookie valley periods.
Hamiltons coach admitted as much after the Tuesday morning skate while preparing for the New York Rangers.
Dougie is going through what a first year player goes through. He was outstanding in the beginning, and hes certainly not poor now, said Claude Julien. To expect this guy to be outstanding isnt really realistic. I know he set the bar high with his early play, but hes certainly not a poor player for us.
We certainly cant complain about how hes handling himself because hes 19 years old. With the amount of ice time hes getting and how well hes playing, its pretty impressive for us anyways.
The perfect example: A couple of Hamilton mistakes in the defensive zone led to the game-tying goal in the second period of Sunday nights game in Buffalo. With the rookie at the end of a shift after the Bruins couldnt score on a power play, Hamilton found himself pinned in the defensive zone along with the rest of the unsuccessful power play unit.
Hamilton tried to slide a blind clearing attempt along the board, but it was intercepted by Drew Stafford. To make matters worse, Hamilton compounded the mistake by failing to cover the front of the net when Tyler Ennis appeared in the slot, and the skilled Buffalo forward made the Bruins pay with a goal.
It is one thing if Hamilton makes a defensive mistake while hes generating goals in the offensive end, but its quite another if his offense isnt offsetting his defense. Still its part of the learning process that the Bruins have signed up for with a 19-year-old defenseman logging heavy minutes.
The points may not be coming right now for him like they were at the beginning, but hes still a very poised player and whatever mistakes he makes well be working with him on, said Julien. Hes going through exactly what we expected him to go through being a good player thats learning along the way.
Julien indicated that his rookie defenseman is diligent about learning from the rookie mistakes that come his way, and some of the turbulent patches were fully expected when they penciled such a young defenseman in such a demanding position on a Cup-caliber team.
So the expectation is that Hamilton will use much-discussed poise and offensive skill to get back into the mix while learning some valuable lessons in first trip through the NHL circuit.