WILMINGTON, Mass. Dougie Hamilton is still a growing boy, and thats a very good thing for the Bruins.
The 19-year-old 2011 first round pick is considered the shimmering diamond of this years Bruins Development Camp, and as such garnered the biggest crowd around his locker stall post-practice along with goaltender Malcolm Subban.
Thats what happens when a dominant OHL season for the Niagara IceDogs is combined with expectations from the Bs front office that Hamilton will be pushing hard for a roster spot in training camp.
Hamilton put up 95 points in 70 OHL games in both regular season and playoffs and looked primed for a graduation to the NHL. He is too young for the AHL this season, so he'll either make the Bruins or be sent back to junior hockey.
Hamilton admitted that it would be a disappointment if hes not skating with the Bruins as a teenaged rookie next season, learning at the feet of Bs Captain Zdeno Chara. But hes much closer to a finished product than he was last season, his first after being drafted.
I think Im a lot further along than I was last year at development camp. Im physically stronger and Im a lot more confident, said Hamilton. My goal is to make the Bruins. I just want to get better every day and give myself an opportunity to do that.
I played an exhibition game last year and it was pretty different. Granted it was only one game, but I think what some guys say is true at the NHL level: everyone is good and the puck moves so much faster. In that respect its easier, but the guys are bigger, stronger and faster. Thats what I need to improve on.
Hamilton holds the best chance among the Bs prospects of cracking a roster that returns 18 players from the Stanley Cup-winning squad of a year ago. It doesnt hurt that hes grown to 6-foot-6 and gained 5-10 pounds in the last year.
Im ahead of where I was last year in terms of strength, but I dont want to get big and bulky where it takes away from my skating, said Hamilton. Depending on the scale right now Im between 200-205 pounds and if I can get up to 205 pounds on a bad day then Id be happy with that.
The added weight should help when hes battling for a job with grizzled pro hockey veterans fighting for a job.
Its clear the mandate from the Bs front office is for Hamilton to pack on as much muscle and strength as possible to compete for a starting spot. He's expected to fight through the camp battles that separate the NHL-ready from the undeveloped pieces of hockey clay.
Were hoping he can come in and establish himself, but its all up to him. Nobody will give him anything, but hopefully he can come in and make the next step, said Sweeney. Theres no question hes added some weight and some overall strength. Where hell be in September will obviously be a long way from where is right now.
Between now and September hell be even bigger and stronger, but I dont think theres a part of the physical aspect of his game that were concerned about.
Hamilton has become a legitimate offensive force at the defenseman spot, and only needs size and strength to prove he can survive at the NHL level as one of the youngest players in the league.
It looks like hes well on his way as he starts his off-season project of winning a job in Boston.