B's Hamilton rested, ready for first full NHL season

B's Hamilton rested, ready for first full NHL season
September 4, 2013, 7:00 pm
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WILMINGTON, Mass. – For the first time in a long time, Dougie Hamilton took a break from hockey this past summer.

“I didn’t skate too much at the start of the summer. I just started working out right away,” said Hamilton. “When I got here I was pretty worn down with junior and world junior, and getting back from Russia. It does feel a little different coming in here fresh, and skating with the other guys.

“I always tell kids that you shouldn’t play hockey all year-round. When I was a kid, I would always get away from it in the summertime and play other sports. It’s probably like that in your job too. You just need to get away from it a bit. Going back home I was away from the team, and it makes it feel all that much better when you come back.”

It was a whirlwind season for Hamilton last year as he participated in summer camps and tournaments as one of the best Canadian hockey prospects under the age of 20, skated in Boston’s development camp, put in a half-season for the Niagara IceDogs, traveled to Russia as one of the captains for Canada’s World Junior team, and then played 42 games in a largely successful NHL rookie season.

He also got his feet wet with seven games played in the playoffs while watching his Bruins team come up two wins short of a Stanley Cup championship. He looked and sounded like a young player at the end of an exceedingly long hockey season when he packed up his things in late June at TD Garden, and Hamilton looked very much the opposite of that on Wednesday morning at Ristuccia Arena.

“It was nice being home and being with my family,” said Hamilton. “It feels a little bit like I just left, and now we’re back. I’m already looking forward to this coming year.

“I don’t think there’s one thing I learned, but I think there’s a consistency that you need to bring every night. Everybody is so good and always playing at such a high level that you’ve got to be playing your best at all times. You can’t ever take any nights off. I know it’s a long year, and everybody needs to do their best to stay consistent.”

It was an adjustment for Hamilton sitting in the press box as a healthy scratch for the first time in his brilliant, young career, but it was something that’s helped the 20-year-old mature after a season of challenges and adversity.

Hamilton spent the summer working on his strength and coordination as he continues to grow into his 6-foot-5, 199-pound frame. He hopes to build on the five goals, 16 points and plus-4 rating in 42 games for Boston last season. Some of his improvement will come from the natural maturation as his body fills out from teenager into full grown man, but he’s been doing whatever possible to coax more out of the process.  

“I’m just getting older and stronger, and working on my game and my skills,” said Hamilton, who would say only that he gained “a little bit” of weight this summer. “It’s a process you have to do, and keep getting better at. I spent a lot of time on my quickness this summer, and I think it’s probably the most coordinated I’ve been since I hit my growth spurt.

“I liked to see the changes in getting a lot more coordinated and a lot quicker," he said. "I think I can still fill out more, but doing sprints and other work this summer was really helpful.”

It will be an interesting training camp for Hamilton and the rest of the defenseman. Adam McQuaid, Johnny Boychuk, Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg and Torey Krug would seem to be locks for five of the top six spots among the defensemen leaving Matt Bartkowski and Hamilton to fight it out for that sixth and final spot in the everyday lineup.

Seidenberg’s ability to play right or left defenseman as a lefty shot would give Boston some flexibility to go with either Hamilton or Bartkowski. The salary cap could also be a factor as the Bruins are right up against the lowered ceiling for this upcoming season. There’s also this theory: Hamilton’s development could be best served by spending the beginning of the season in Providence where he could play 20 minutes a night while getting top power play and penalty kill minutes befitting a future franchise defenseman.

While it’s not out of the realm of possibility, there is certainly plenty resting on how Krug, Bartkowski and Hamilton all play once camp begins a week from today.

Either way, the future is bright with a rested, relaxed Hamilton ready to show the best of his game after a summer getting ready for his first full NHL season.