The Bruins had their pick from a handful of elite defenseman prospects when their No. 9 selection rolled around Friday night in the first round of the NHL entry draft, but general manager said the decision was a "no brainer" with 6-foot-4, 193-pound blueliner Dougie Hamilton still on the board.
“You always hear this, but we didn't think he'd be there,” Chiarelli said shortly after announcing the 18-year-old Hamilton as the Bruins’ first-round selection. "We were really happy he was there."
Hamilton, who played the last two seasons for the OHL’s Niagara Ice Dogs, was the second defenseman taken in the draft. The Bruins picked Hamilton over fellow top defensive prospects Jonas Brodin, Duncan Siemens, Jamieson Oleksiak, Nathan Beaulieu and Ryan Murphy. After the Bruins’ pick at nine, four of the next five selections were defensemen.
"Tremendous skater. Good offensive instincts. Good stick,” said Chiarelli in describing the player he said the Bruins had ranked in their top five overall prospects in the draft. “[Hamilton is] a very smart player on the ice. Good range. Has a good physical size to his game and he's big and continues to grow."
Hamilton called himself a "complete defenseman" that can "skate well", "make good passes and contribute offensively as well" in comments to reporters after being drafted by the Bruins, comparing his style to the likes of Jay Bouwmeester, Rob Blake and Brent Burns.
Even in doing so, he acknowledged he wasn't a finished product.
"I've grown a lot in the last couple of years," Hamilton said. "Haven't filled into my body yet. I'm working hard now in the gym and I need to work a lot hard to get bigger. That will help with my physical game as well."
Does he think he's ready for the NHL?
"I have no idea," Hamilton said. "It depends what the Bruins want to do. I'll be happy with whatever."
It's unclear whether Hamilton will spend next season with the Bruins or if he'll be playing for Niagara again, though Chiarelli guessed that Hamilton was "at least a year away."
"Especially for a big defenseman, he's got to take time to grow into his body,” Chiarelli explained. "You see that a lot with the bigger defensemen in juniors."
In his second season with the Ice Dogs in 2010-11, Hamilton scored 12 goals and had 46 assists for 58 points in 67 games and finished third in the OHL's voting for the league's top defenseman.
A native of Toronto, Hamilton comes from a family of athletes. Both of his parents were Canadian Olympians in 1984 (his mother was a basketball player and his father won a bronze medal as a rower) and his older brother Freddie was drafted by the San Jose Sharks in 2010 and was recently signed to a contract.
"Pretty good genes," Hamilton quipped.
The Hamilton pick closes the book on the Phil Kessel trade. The Bruins had acquired the Maple Leafs' No. 1 (Tyler Seguin) and No. 2 (Jared Knight) picks in 2010 and their No. 1 pick in 2011 (Hamilton) in the 2009 deal that sent Kessel to Toronto.
“I’m pleased with it and you know when you make a deal like that for an established player and you trade a young established player, both sides have to know what they want,” Chiarelli said. “We had an idea we were going to get some good picks for a variety of reasons and we did. They got s really good young player who can score 40 goals in the league.”
Already in good shape on the blue line, the Bruins won’t need to rush Hamilton, who in a few years could be groomed as the successor to Zdeno Chara as a top-pairing defenseman.
Though he didn’t have a pre-draft interview with the Bruins, Hamilton visited Boston, along with some of his fellow top prospects, for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals. He came away impressed with the city and the fans.
"Really nice city. The rink was nice. The fans were crazy, which was good to see," Hamilton said. "The atmosphere was very good. Just loved it there and I'm happy to be going back there."
ESPN.com Insider Gare Joyce had Hamilton ranked as his ninth-best prospect in the draft. Here is Joyce’s scouting report:
In the mold of your prototype top-2 d-man with his size, but some aren't sold on his decision-making. Did have an effective playoff, though. As we've frequently said however, even top D prospects are taking a backseat to centers these days. Some may have him higher on their lists. Intimidation isn't part of his game -- yet. But he possesses high-end puck skills. A great situation for patient development. No need to rush and maybe ruin him. They had interest in Ryan Murphy and word was they were high on him, but Murphy is a projection and a risky choice along the lines of Ryan Ellis, a talented kid still working in junior hockey. Hamilton is the safer pick.”
TSN had Hamilton ranked sixth overall. Here is TSN scout Grant McCagg’s take on him:
Hamilton made steady progress on the Niagara blueline, and averaged more than a point per game in 14 playoff games while leading the Ice Dogs to the third round. Parents were Olympic athletes and older brother Freddie was an NHL draft pick last season.
Strengths - Excellent mobility and reach make him difficult to beat one-on-one. Uses his strong, smooth stride to skate his way out of trouble in own zone. deft playmaking abilities on power play.
Weaknesses - not overly physical despite imposing size. Prone to mental errors when fatigued, still raw, needs to get stronger.
NHL Upside - Size, mobility and offensive could translate into top pairing duties at the NHL level as he fills out.
Rounds 2-7 of the draft will take place Saturday, starting at 11 a.m. ET.