By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
WILMINGTON Dougie Hamilton is in a pretty comfortable spot for his first trip through NHL training camp.
The 18-year-old first round pick will have the attention and cachet that goes along with being a first round pick and hot young prospect, but the 6-foot-5 defenseman isnt expected to seriously threaten for a roster spot with the team that eventually breaks training camp.
So instead Hamilton will go about his business in the background amid a veteran group of Cup-worthy skaters starting on Saturday, and learn from an ideal group of veteran blueliners like Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference and Dennis Seidenberg.
Thats simply a great spot to be in for a youngster willing to learn.
Hamilton will eventually return to the Niagara Ice Dogs for another season of junior hockey, possibly take part in the World Junior tournament as a member of Team Canada and add a little more size and strength to his lengthy frame before returning to Boston this time next year.
The coordination, skill, skating speed and physical attributes that made him a top draft pick are all there, but Hamilton needs to simply put them all together while amping his brain up to the increased pace of play around him at the NHL level. It wont happen overnight, but Hamilton is confident that it will happen.
Next week is going to be another step up, and then when I go back to Niagara Ill be that many steps ahead, said Hamilton, referring to the inevitable day when he exits NHL camp for another season in the OHL. Its time to play hockey and its the season. Youre expected to be in top performance here.
Ive seen the veterans on the ice a couple of times and in the changing room. A few months ago you were watching them on TV and now youre trying to be teammates with them. So thats pretty special.
Hamilton wont have the same crowds of media around him that he did at the prospect camp once the real Bruins arrive, and the polished youngster wont have a microscope trained on him each time he touches the puck in practice.
Hell instead simply be able to play hockey.
Thats what the Bruins front office wants to see out of their promising young defenseman after watching Hamilton put up a commendable effort in the first rookie game against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. Hamilton made some plays and showed some poise, but theres also a big ceiling hell be able to reach given his talent, intelligence and work ethic.
He just needs to go through a camp and see the strength and speed of the NHL players, said Bruins assistant GM Jim Benning. Hes involved in a process where theres no pressure for him. He can just go out there and play his game and learn. Well see how he does and review where hes at.
But for him itll just be a good learning experience because hell see how strong and how fast the NHL players are.
Gifted natural scorers like Jared Knight and rookie game scoring machine Ryan Spooner might feel more like a job sits on the line with each up and down in training camp, but thats roller coaster is a little down the road for Hamilton.
For an 18-year-old thats already had a pretty good year, the NHL training camp is akin to dipping his toes in the water before coming back next season to execute a cannonball into the Bs swimming pool.
As it should be for the talented Hamilton.