Hamilton is final piece of Kessel trade

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Hamilton is final piece of Kessel trade

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
MINNEAPOLIS It might officially be time for Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli to close up that fancy embossed envelope and send the Thank You card to Toronto GM Brian Burke for the Phil Kessel deal.

The Bruins used the final draft pick collected in the Kessel deal with Toronto to select 6-foot-4 defenseman Dougie Hamilton a tall, rangy, skilled defenseman that Chiarelli compared to NHL stalwart Rob Blake when pressed and now have 19-year-old Tyler Seguin, enormously talented second round pick Jared Knight and Hamilton to show for a player in Toronto that still has yet to play one postseason game with the Leafs.

There are some within the Bruins organization that get just as bright-eyed speaking about the offensive potential of Knight as they do about Seguin and his elite skating, shooting and playmaking package.

While Seguin and possibly Knight will factor into next seasons Bruins team as dangerous scoring forces at the forward positions, the selection of Hamilton gives the Bruins a solid nucleus of players that should be in Black and Gold for the next 5-10 years once theyve all made it to Boston.

Chiarelli and Co. had brought defensemen prospects Ryan Murphy and Nathan Beaulieu to Boston for interviews and workouts when they thought both would be there for the taking with the No. 9 pick overall. They never brought Hamilton into the Hub for a sit-down because they assumed hed be long gone by the time they selected, so Chiarelli once again played the role of an executive exclaiming with glee that they couldnt believe their good fortune that a player had dropped into their lap.

Chiarelli made a point to mention that the team had never drafted an elite defenseman with their first round picks in each of the last five years, and that this could possibly be the year it happens.

That is exactly what happened.

We basically said that we dont have to bring this fellow in to Boston for an interview, said Chiarelli. If he was there, it was a no-brainer so we didnt have to see anything extra on him. Thats how strongly we feel about him.

Hes a tremendous skater: good offensive instincts, good stick, hes a very smart player on the ice, good range. He has a good, physical side to his game. And hes big and he continues to grow.

The 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame is the typical body of an 18-year-old kid that still needs time to mature and fill out, but the frame can support a lot more muscle that will be added over the next few years. For those reasons Chiarelli assumed that Hamilton wont be able to play in Boston next season, and would likely be headed back to Niagara for another season of refinement in junior hockey.

Hamilton obviously wasnt going to demand he play in Boston next year, and seemed to understand he still had some growth and maturity to go before he was ready to play against grown men in the NHL. The youngster sprouted up two inches and gained 10 pounds last summer, and appears that he might not be done growing into an ideal body type for a defenseman.

Ive grown a lot in the last few years and havent really filled into my body yet. Im still working hard right now in the gym, said Hamilton. I need to work a lot harder and get bigger and that will help with my physical game as well. I think you have to improve everything because the guys in the NHL are a lot better than OHL players.

He did look pretty good last year, however, with 12 goals and 46 assists along with 77 PIMs in 67 games skating for the Ice Dogs, and showed the kind of athleticism assumed with his bloodlines. His father was a bronze medal-winning rower on the Canadian Olympic team and his mother a member of the Canadian Womens Baseball Team when both met during the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Best of all, Hamilton already had his first taste of Boston despite his status as an Ontario kid in the middle of Maple Leafs Nation. Hamilton was among a contingent of top prospects the NHL shuttled to Boston for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals and the teen-ager was blown away by the passion and frenzy of Bruins fans lathered up for their first Cup Final game in nearly 20 years.

We got to go in the dressing room and meet a bunch of the guys, and talk to Tyler Seguin and guys like that, said Hamilton. We just got to watch the game and pregame skate. The fans were basically standing the whole time and cheering, so that picture is in my head right nowits exciting.

There was a twinkle in Hamiltons eye when the prospect of skating with 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara was mentioned to the youngster, and it was pretty clear that Boston made a good impression on him. Hell obviously be with the Bruins for Development Camp when it opens on July 6 and should be a part of rookie training camp in Boston come September, but Hamilton is in the baby giraffe stage that many bigger defensemen find themselves in their late teen-age years.

For a defenseman -- especially for a big defenseman I think hes got to take time to grow into his body, said Chiarelli. You see that a lot with the bigger defenseman in juniors.

Hamilton will get his time in junior hockey to grow into his scouts dream of a defensemen body, and there will be no rush for him to join young players like Seguin, Knight and Co. that are virtually guaranteeing the Bruins will thrive long after this seasons Stanley Cup team is in the rear view mirror.

All it took was one forward-thinking deal to ship away a petulant one-dimensional scorer, and the Bruins have set themselves up for a marvelous run for the foreseeable future. Hamilton was the final piece in that deal, and it is high time Burke got the proper thank you from the Bs brain trust on Causeway Street.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

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Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It certainly doesn’t feel like it will go on forever this way for the Bruins, but at this point it’s essentially a case of musical left wings on the David Krejci line as it’s been for much of this season. 

Ryan Spooner has spent the majority of the season adjusting to playing the wing with Krejci, and has been just okay trying to play away from his natural center spot while using his speed and playmaking on the wing. But the speedy Spooner also spent his share of time lately on the fourth line after getting off to a slow offensive start this season with three goals and eight points along with a minus-1 rating in 23 games. 

The bouncing between the second and fourth line has undoubtedly been frustrating for the 24-year-old getting pushed off his natural position after posting 49 points in his first full year as a third line center. But Spooner has continued to toe the company line, work on keeping his confidence high for a productive offensive season and do what he needs to in an effort to get off a fourth line.

That’s opened the door for hard-nosed former Providence College standout Tim Schaller to get some top-6 forward time on the Krejci line as well, but he’s just posted a single assist in the last three games while working hard to keep up offensively with David Krejci and David Backes. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Schaller has the grittiness to do the dirty work for that line in the corners and in front of the net, and he can certainly skate well enough for a big, energy forward. 

“To think this was going to happen, I would say ‘no’,” said Schaller when asked if he could have predicted at the start of the season that he’d be getting a look from the B’s in a top-6 role. “I’ve been able to play with whoever and whenever my whole career. I wouldn’t want to say it’s one of those things that I had expected, but I’m always ready for it. 

“We’ve been working pretty well together. I don’t know that we’ve had too many great [offensive] opportunities to capitalize on, but Backes and Krejci are good enough players that they’ll come. They’re good enough to bury on those chances, so the goals will come. I’m always going to play the same way no matter who I’m with. Those guys might have the puck on their sticks a little longer than other linemates of mine, but that will just create more space and opportunities.”

So Spooner and Schaller bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table as the B’s coaching staff searches for the right fit alongside Krejci and Backes, and Julien sounds like a coach that’s going to keep swinging back and forth between the two players. He certainly did that with Spooner during the third period in Philly, which led to an immediate goal for Krejci in the third period comeback, and toward the end of the Carolina win with the B's desperate for offense. 

Julien also didn’t rule out Matt Beleskey getting another look there as well with the Bruins having a tough time finding anybody to consistently fill Loui Eriksson’s role from last season.

“At times I don’t think that offense has been producing much because maybe it’s lacking a little bit of speed at that time, so you put Spooner back up there. But sometimes you feel like that line isn’t winning enough battles or spending enough time in the offensive zone, so you put Schaller back in there because he’s going to play a little grittier. So we’re looking there,” said Julien. “We’d love to be able to find somebody to be a consistent player there. We’ve had Matt Beleskey there and that line never really did anything. 

“[Beleskey] has been much better on the [third] line and he’s been getting more chances, so I’ve been trying to put the best scenario together, I guess. Sometimes it’s the situation and sometimes it’s the matchup [against the other team] as well. So there are different reasons for that. I’ve just got to make it work. If it’s working with [Schaller] on that night then you stick with it, and if you don’t think you’re getting enough then you move [Spooner] there and see if you can a little spark with some speed. It doesn’t mean Beleskey won’t go back there. That’s what we have right now.”

So it’s clear Julien, and the B’s coaching staff, have simply tried to find something that will work on a consistent basis with a couple of key offensive players on Boston’s second most important forward line. The one wild card in all of this: the impending return of Frank Vatrano, who has been skating for nearly two weeks as he works toward a return from foot surgery.

Vatrano was initially penciled in as the left winger alongside Krejci to start NHL camp this fall, and the Bruins were hoping he was going to build on the eight goals he scored in Boston last season in a limited role.

Vatrano could be ready to play within the next couple of weeks, and should be back in the B’s lineup prior to the early January timetable originally offered at the time of his surgery. So perhaps the 22-year-old Vatrano can end this season-long carousel of Bruins left wingers getting paraded on and off the Krejci line, and finally give the B’s greater options at left wing. 

But the Czech playmaking center could use some stability also as he looks to find the highest level of his game in a challenging year for the Black and Gold, and do it while the Bruins find the right kind of talent to skate alongside him. 

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Anton Blidh plans on keeping things pretty straightforward on his first call-up to the NHL. 

The former sixth-round pick of the Bruins has earned his stripes at the AHL level with Providence over the last couple of seasons, and comes to Boston as a gritty, energy forward capable of stirring things up in otherwise sleepy games. There’s also a bit of offensive upside for a fourth line-type player with five goals and nine points with 22 penalty minutes and a plus-eight rating in 19 games for the P-Bruins this season. 

It remains to be seen if the Blidh call-up means that the Bruins intend to scratch a player or that somebody is questionable for Saturday afternoon’s game in Buffalo, but Patrice Bergeron did miss Friday’s practice without any real defined reason for his absence. The 21-year-old Swede said he plans to play to his strengths if he gets into the lineup for the Black and Gold, and that could mean getting under the skin of his Sabres opponents. 

“It’s my first time called up, so I’m happy,” said Blidh, who was asked what he'll bring if he gets into the lineup. “I’ll just play simple and play my own game: be hard on the puck and play with some energy. I worked hard [in Providence] and then I got some confidence. I’m not a goal-scorer, but I scored a couple of goals and got some confidence.”

Claude Julien hasn’t been able to catch up Blidh’s work since the season got started, but was pleased by the youngster’s progress in training camp, where he earned notice for his feisty, physical play on a line with Noel Acciari. 

“They said he’s playing well, so they brought him up. We’ll get to see him, hopefully tomorrow,” said Julien. “I didn’t hear a ton of fine details aside from him being a guy that was certainly playing with a lot of energy. I didn’t mind him in training camp either. He works really hard and competes hard, and we could use that.”

That would certainly be the case after watching the Bruins go through the motions for long stretches Thursday night against Carolina before essentially stealing a game that they didn’t deserve to win.