Hamilton could be in Boston sooner than expected

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Hamilton could be in Boston sooner than expected

When Dougie Hamilton took part in Bruins development camp last summer it was pretty clear just how high his ceiling could be as a professional. It was also apparent just how much work the 18-year-old had in front of him to develop the required strength to compete at the NHL level.

But Hamilton steadily improved through that week of camp and showed flashes of excellence before getting returned to his OHL team, the Niagara Ice Dogs, for the upcoming junior season. Last week, the Bs announced Hamilton's new three-year entry level contract prior to his foray into the World Junior Hockey Tournament with Team Canada.

I dont think I was really too focused on the contract too much. I just wanted to improve everyday and work hard, said Hamilton, who has 12 goals and 45 points in 30 games this season. I just want to get better and do the things I need to do in order to achieve my dreams.

So I think thats one step closer to becoming an NHL player and I think its something that most of the guys, all the prospects do when they are getting closer to make that jump. For me, I am just really excited and am just going to keep working as hard as I can to make the Bruins.

Hamilton has exploded offensively and defensively this season in Niagara, and will compete for a spot at the NHL level next season after showing such impressive growth at the junior level. Chiarelli didnt shy away from comparisons to young Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn, but it seems that perhaps Bostons 2011 first round pick could eventually aspire to an even higher ground as a player.

Based on what I saw, and based on how I think hell develop, I think he will compete for a roster spot, said Chiarelli, who said that Hamilton could play a handful of games for the Providence Bruins at the end of this season if his junior hockey career is over. The size, skating, range, is all there . . . He finishes with authority. Hes not a crasher and a banger. His gap is always so good; his checking is almost like, just separating. He doesnt need that big gap to hit a guy. Hes always there, so he just separates.

The big question with Hamiltons signing and potential debut in Boston next season is how that affects the rest of the defensemen crew next season.

Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference, Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid are all signed for next season, and will be back. But Johnny Boychuk and Joe Corvo are both unrestricted free agents after this season, and its certain that Boychuk wants to re-sign with Boston if given a fair offer. Corvo would likely want to wait out the season before taking a deal. Good thing, because it seems that Chiarelli is going to play out free agency and the new Collective Bargaining Agreement this summer before making final decisions.

It stands to reason that the teenaged Hamilton could be looked at as a potentially cheaper alternative to either of those two defensemen if the salary cap drops dramatically, but Chiarelli said those kinds of decisions were a long way off. Things could potentially change in his mind if Boychuk keeps improving as a top-four NHL defenseman, but that also means the rugged Boychuks price tag could rise dramatically around the league.

I dont really put them together yet. Well see how Dougie Hamilton plays the rest of the year and well see how our guys play the rest of the year, said Chiarelli. There are a lot of factors involved, but I think Hamilton will challenge for a spot next year.

With Chara on the shelf for the next handful of games with a lower body injury (believed to be a left knee issue), the Bruins captain seems mortal for one of the first times in his career. Big 'Z' isnt getting any younger, and Hamilton seems like a natural future partner for Chara when Hamilton eventually begins to learn his way around the NHL.

What better place for a future No. 1 Bs defenseman to learn his craft?

Cracking the Bs lineup is what I am working towards right now. I think Ive improved a lot since I got drafted and over the course of the year. Obviously the team is really good and they are doing really well right now, Hamilton said. For me, thats a goal of mine. Im working as hard as I can and I think next summer is going to be an important one for me as far as my development and for my future.

Its still a long way off in the grand scheme of things, but it seems the Dougie Hamilton Era in Boston is a closer than anybody might have thought.

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while thinking about and praying for the people of Manchester, England. It’s obviously an evil, cowardly act to bomb any public place, but to do it at a concert filled with women and children is the lowest of the low.

*The Capitals players are acknowledging that there’s some kind of mental block with the Stanley Cup playoffs. CSN Mid-Atlantic has all the details.

*It’s been a very odd postseason for the NHL where there are so many non-traditional teams still alive with the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Fina, and the Ottawa Senators fighting for their lives in the Eastern Conference Final. On that note, there is a ton of disappointment at the empty seats at the Canadian Tire Centre for Ottawa’s home games in the playoffs. It sounds like there are going to be empty seats tonight for a do-or-die Game 6 in Ottawa. That is an embarrassment for a Canadian city that’s supposed to pride itself on their love of hockey. Let’s hope the Senators fans have a last-minute surge to buy tickets and show some appreciation for a Senators team that’s given the Ottawa fans a totally unexpected ride through the postseason this spring. I mean, Erik Karlsson at the top of his game is worth the price of admission all by himself.  

*The Pittsburgh Penguins have the Senators on the ropes, and it’s been an impressive showing given that they’re doing it without Kris Letang.

*Pro Hockey Talk has the ownership for the St. Louis Blues giving their GM Doug Armstrong a vote of confidence.

*Another early exit from the playoffs is going to start making some players expendable on the New York Rangers roster.

*Here’s a good piece on how David Poile built the Nashville Predators, who have reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time. Give credit where it’s due: He manned up and made a big move dealing away Shea Weber straight up for PK Subban. It’s really worked for Music City as they’ve stepped to the next level.

*Speaking of Nashville’s rise this spring in a wide open Western Conference, Pekka Rinne has silenced the critics he might have had by carrying his team to the Cup Final.

*For something completely different: Boston law enforcement is on high alert after the bombing of the Ariana Grande concert in the UK.

 

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right.