Bruins questions: Hamilton expectations?


As part of our preview heading into the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, we've asked Joe McDonald and James Murphy to answer nine big questions (one per day) facing the Boston Bruins. Here's our Day 5 question:

What do you expect from Dougie Hamilton this season?

Joe McDonald: The Boston Bruins have high expectations for rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton, as the team prepares for the lockout-shortened 48-game schedule in 2013.

The 19-year-old blue-liner was the organization’s top pick (ninth overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft and he’s in camp with hopes of earning a spot on the roster. Even before the lockout began last fall, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli felt that Hamilton would make his NHL debut in 2012-2013. During the work stoppage, Hamilton remained with his junior team and posted eight goals and 33 assists for 41 points in 32 games for the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL.

He’s a highly skilled player, but it will take him some time to transition to the NHL game because of its size and speed. Once he gets comfortable, however, he will make an impact for the Bruins.

Bruins coach Claude Julien decided to pair Hamilton with veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg for the start of training camp. Hamilton also worked on the team's power-play unit. Don’t be surprised to see him paired some with Zdeno Chara, too.

Hamilton is capable of being successful in his rookie season, given his talent and abilities. He’ll likely make a smooth transition once he gets used to the style of play in the NHL.

James Murphy: Expectations are high for Bruins prized rookie Hamilton. It's rare that a 19-year-old rookie will come into training camp with the coaching staff and management already saying he has made the team, but that's just how good he is. The question, though, is how will his raw talent translate on the ice at the NHL level?

Hamilton has ripped it up at the junior level for Niagara of the OHL, with 187 points in 213 games. But can the 6-foot-5, 200-pound rearguard do the same in the pros?

The guess here is that he won't be totaling as many points in his rookie season, but with a cast of skilled veterans like captain Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg surrounding him on the blue line, his transition should be a smooth one. Hamilton has the size and talent to become an elite defenseman in the NHL and we should see that potential on display this season. But don't be surprised if he's not an automatic Calder Trophy candidate for rookie of the year. The Bruins will throw him into all sorts of situations, but with caution, and if he struggles they will pull back.

Hamilton should be able to have a 25-30-point season or maybe even more, but we all have to remember he is only 19 and still has plenty of development ahead of him.