- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins suffered without Dennis Seidenberg (knee) in the lineup for the majority of this season, especially in the Stanley Cup playoffs. But his absence forced Dougie Hamilton to step up, and as a result the 20-year-old blueliner soared to new heights in his first full NHL season.
"Dougie Hamilton will be a guy that will be on a lot of people’s lips here moving forward at the rate he’s improving,” said head coach Claude Julien. “I think he’s going that way like he’s going to be an elite defenseman.”
Partnered with captain Zdeno Chara most of the time, Hamilton proved he could handle the workload at both ends of the ice. In the playoffs, he wasn’t overmatched.
“I thought it was a real coming out for Dougie,” said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli. “He made mistakes, don’t get me wrong, but I think he had, by the end, a real good playoff. You saw confidence. You saw something that Claude [Julien] has been working on, the defending. And he still has areas to improve on there, but he is really defending with more strength. He’s not always been good with the puck but he had a really solid, real solid playoff.”
As the season progressed, Hamilton was encouraged to play with more bite, more fire to take another step toward reaching his full potential. He showed more of that physical style of game during the playoffs, which the Bruins hope will carry over into next season.
The former first-round pick (ninth overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Hamilton dealt with a lot during his rookie season. He spent half the season in juniors while the NHL and the NHLPA settled the labor dispute before he officially became an NHLer on Jan. 19, 2013.
Scouts from around the league witnessed significant progress in Hamilton’s development this season. He showed there’s more to come.
“I thought he really gained confidence as the season went on and stepped up his game when Seidenberg was out,” said one NHL scout. “He took on a bigger role and played a more complete game. I really think he is going to be a very good two-way guy and play all situations. I would like to see him be more assertive in the D-zone at times, but he has all the tools to be a really good D-man. Would like to see more bite at times, but he took a big step this year.”
Not many players work as hard as Chara, both on and off the ice. The captain had been hesitant to praise Hamilton during his rookie season and again this year, but it was evident during exit day last Friday that Chara is impressed with his defensive partner.
“We saw that he was handling playing against top players. His skating ability is a huge part of his game. He sees the ice really well. He plays the puck well,” Chara said. “Again, it comes down to not getting complacent or happy with anything you’ve done. You always have to look ahead and try to get better. This game is a funny game. You think you have it figured out and all of a sudden there’s something new. You’ve got to always be willing to get better.”
Hamilton realizes there are certain areas he must improve on, but overall was happy with his development this season.
“I think it was pretty good, a lot of fun,” Hamilton said. “I’m already looking forward to next year. Hopefully this summer I’ll get bigger and stronger and hopefully be a better player come next year.
"I need to continue to get stronger, keep working on the things in my game, like my skating and skills and everything I can improve on. I’m excited for the opportunity now to be able to do that. I want to come back, obviously, a lot better.”
6dPierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald