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.

Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

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Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing everybody a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. 

*Apparently Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette has yet to try Nashville’s hot chicken despite his time behind the Preds bench. It’s okay, I have yet to try it either in my handful of visits to Music City. 

*Good stuff from PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough. Apparently it wasn’t so easy to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed when it came time for director Doug Liman to cut Swingers together

*Sidney Crosby cares about the history and the issues of the game, and has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation despite the hate that always comes with such responsibility. 

*Puck Daddy examines Crosby’s performance in the playoffs, and the odds of him winning another Conn Smythe Trophy. 

*The Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final without Kris Letang for their playoff run, and that’s an amazing accomplishment. 

*Erik Karlsson said that he will be tending to his injured foot next week, and expects a full recovery for next season after a brilliant run with his Ottawa Senators

*Larry Brooks again rails against the Stanley Cup playoff structure and it’s relation to an “absurd regular season.” Say what you will, but the fact the Penguins are there for a second straight season shoots down some of the absurdity stuff in my mind. The best team from the East is where they should be and they did it without Kris Letang to boot. 

*Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Debrincat is confident his abilities will translate to the NHL despite his size after taking home honors as the best player in junior hockey this season. 

*For something completely different: Apparently there’s a hard core comic book geek gripe that “The Flash” is burning through bad guys too quickly. This would make sense if they couldn’t revisit these bad guys at any point, but they absolutely can go back to a big bad like Grodd anytime they want. 

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

It was the longest run that the P-Bruins have had in a few years and another unmistakable sign that the future is brightening for the Black and Gold, but the Bruins AHL affiliate has ended their playoff push in the Calder Cup semi-finals. 

The Providence Bruins fell by a 3-1 score to the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday night to lose to the Crunch in five games when the best-of-seven series was set to return to Providence this coming week. The P-Bruins had vanquished the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears in the first two rounds of the Calder Cup playoffs before finally exiting against Syracuse. 

Though it’s over, it’s clear some of the Bruins prospects made a nice step forward over the second half of the AHL season and then into the Calder Cup playoffs. With the Calder Cup Finals yet to start, B’s forward prospect Danton Heinen stands as the second-leading playoff scorer in the entire AHL with nine goals and 18 points in 17 playoff games after really struggling in the first half of his first pro season while bouncing back and forth between the NHL and the AHL. 

This could bode well for the skilled Heinen and his hopes to make the leap to the NHL in the near future after a stellar collegiate career at the University of Denver. AHL journeymen-types Wayne Simpson and Jordan Szwarz were the next two top scorers for the P-Bruins in the playoff run, but Jake DeBrusk had a strong playoff season as well while popping in six goals in 17 games. DeBrusk led all Providence players with his 54 shots on net in the 17-game playoff run for Providence, and he headlined a group that included B’s prospects Ryan Fitzgerald, Zach Senyshyn, Matt Grzelcyk, Peter Cehlarik (who succumbed to shoulder surgery during the playoffs), Emil Johansson and Robbie O’Gara all getting some vital playoff experience. 

Both Heinen and DeBrusk will be strong candidates for jobs on the wing with the Boston big club when training camp opens in the fall after strong showings in the postseason. 

On the goaltending side, Zane McIntyre was solid for the P-Bruins at times while in 16 of their 17 playoff games with a .906 save percentage. But it was Malcolm Subban that was playing at the very end of the playoff run for Providence and featured a sterling .937 save percentage in the four AHL playoff games that he appeared in this spring after an up-and-down regular season. McIntyre had an .857 save percentage and 4.37 goals against average in the final series against Syracuse, and looked a little spent like many of the other P-Bruins players once they’d unexpectedly made it to the third round of the AHL postseason.  

The only unfortunate part of Providence’s run is that newly signed youngsters Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson couldn’t be a part of it after signing and then appearing in NHL games following a cut-off date for AHL playoff rosters. Both missed on an experience that could have been very conducive for their professional development, and uncovered a wrinkle in the NHL/AHL transaction process that really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a developmental league.