Friday, January 25, 2013
Dougie Hamilton doing it all for B's
By Joe McDonald ESPNBoston.com
BOSTON -- In the waning minutes of the Boston Bruins' 4-2 win over the New York Islanders Friday night at TD Garden, the 17,565 in attendance began to chant: "Dougie, Dougie, Dougie."
Well, it didn't take long for rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton to make his presence felt in Boston. So far, in his first four games of his NHL career, the 19-year-old blueliner has done just about everything the Bruins were hoping to see from their former first-round selection (ninth overall) in the 2011 NHL entry draft.
He's solid defensively. He's not afraid to use his 6-foot-5, 199-pound frame to physically shut down the opposition. He plays a sound positional game. From an offensive standpoint, he's been jumping up into the play and has been using his big shot to get pucks on the net.
So fans have every reason to chant "Dougie, Dougie, Dougie."
Dougie Hamilton is keeping it cool and staying humble, but the 19-year-old blueliner has been a force on the ice.
"I don't know," he said sheepishly when asked what he thought of the chants. "I was trying not to fumble the puck when I was going back there for it."
Still, he appreciates the gesture by the hometown crowd.
"It would have been better if I had scored on that one instead of hitting him in the head. It's obviously nice to have that support from the fans. It's pretty cool," he said.
Hamilton finished the night with two assists and now has three points in four games.
Bruins coach Claude Julien offered a few reasons for Hamilton's early success. During the lockout, the rookie blueliner played for his junior team, the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL, and he also played for Team Canada in the World Junior Championship.
"He's come in here with obviously a good jump, having played four months of hockey, and right now he's playing with a lot of confidence," Julien said. "The guys he's been playing with have been extremely helpful with him on the ice. Our guys drafted him because they saw a lot of things that we're seeing right now. We liked his size. We liked the way he moved on the ice, but at the same time, we thought he had really good hockey sense. He sees the ice well and he finds the passing lanes."
Case in point: On the Bruins' fourth goal, a breakaway tally by Patrice Bergeron, it was Hamilton's breakout, cross-ice pass to Brad Marchand that set up the insurance goal.
"That was a perfect breakout right there," Bergeron said. "Dougie found the seam to Marchy, and Marchy was open, he came down low to get that passing lane open and it spread their forecheck and I was able to get the breakaway.
"It's amazing to see he's 19 years old. It's just a number for him on the ice, you can't tell at all. His poise is unbelievable and it's great to have him on our side."
From the organization's rookie camp last summer to training camp prior to the start of this lockout-shortened, 48-game season, team president Cam Neely, general manager Peter Chiarelli and Julien have all held Hamilton's play and attitude -- both on and off the ice -- in high regard.
His fellow defensemen have been impressed, too.
"He's been playing really good," said Johnny Boychuk. "He's really poised with the puck. It's good to see he's comfortable out there and playing his game and not trying to do anything that's extra ordinary. He's making the right plays, the simple plays, and he's doing a really good job of finding guys, too."
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Hamilton's transition to the NHL game has been a relatively smooth one.
"Well, for me it was a couple of years," Boychuk said with a laugh. "It's just getting used to the speed of the game. It's a lot faster here than juniors, obviously, and he's been adjusting really well to it. He's a really good guy and if you tell him something, or give him a pointer, he listens and he's down-to-earth. It's nice to see that."
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who scored his first goal of the season -- a game-winning tally at 7:07 of the third period to give Boston a 3-2 lead -- was quick and to the point when asked about Hamilton's night.
"Strong game again," Chara said.
Hamilton is only four games into his promising NHL career, but his maturity and skills are those of a seasoned veteran. It would be easy for a first-round draft pick to lose a sense of his game once he reaches the NHL, and stumble. Hamilton will have some growing pains, but the early sample size has been impressive.
Let's not enshrine the kid in the Hall of Fame and raise his No. 27 to the rafters just yet, but he is certainly showing the early signs of being a special player in Boston.
"You have to be pleased and impressed with a young player playing the way he has been," Julien said.
Those "Dougie" chants will likely become a staple of Bruins games at the Garden for the foreseeable future.
"He's been real great for us," Milan Lucic said. "You can tell he's got a lot of confidence, he's got a lot of skill, and you can see why he was a highly touted player before he came to the NHL. We're real lucky and fortunate to have him and let's hope he keeps progressing."