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BOSTON -- Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton enters his sophomore season with a little less attention than he had a season ago as a 19-year-old rookie. With training camp officially underway at TD Garden, newcomers Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson have captured most of the spotlight in the early going, and that's just fine with Hamilton.
His rookie season was far from normal. Due to the NHL lockout that cut the 2012-2013 season in half, Hamilton spent the first half of last season playing for his junior team, the Niagara Ice Dogs of the OHL. When the NHL and the players' association finally came to an agreement and the season began in January, all eyes were on Hamilton as he was set to make his professional debut.
The Bruins originally selected Hamilton as the organization's first-round pick (ninth overall) in the 2011 NHL entry draft. It was at that point he would forever be linked with Tyler Seguin (second overall in 2010) as they were the two first-round picks Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for forward Phil Kessel.
|Entering his second NHL campaign, Dougie Hamilton is focused on improving his play and finishing the season strong.|
Bruins fans learned more about Seguin in July when Chiarelli pulled the trigger on a deal that sent the 21-year-old forward, along with veteran forward Rich Peverley, to the Dallas Stars in exchange for Eriksson and three prospects -- Matt Fraser, Reilly Smith and Joe Morrow.
Seguin had fallen out of favor with Chiarelli and the hockey operations staff amid concerns about his development, maturity and professionalism both on and off the ice. Those thoughts and images were up close and personal during the recent broadcast of NESN's new all-access "Behind the B" series that aired Monday night.
While Chiarelli and his staff debated whether to trade Seguin, he was described as someone with too many red flags, someone who did not fit the culture in Boston. It was time to move on. So, the Bruins did.
But Hamilton seems like a good bet to stick around in Boston. While Seguin lived on his own during his rookie season in 2010-11, Hamilton lived with veteran defenseman Adam McQuaid last season and the two continue to be roommates. Away from the rink, their days and nights are filled with watching TV and playing video games.
Hamilton is low-key and low-maintenance off the ice, but he's reliable, physical and productive on the ice. That's exactly what the Bruins want.
"I'm sure he's got a better taste of what it takes to be a pro," said Bruins veteran forward Shawn Thornton. "There's only a learning curve for a first-year guy, especially a guy that young. It looks like he put the work in and I think he's ready to go. He's a really good hockey player, so he should be contributing at a fairly consistent level for us and I'm looking forward to watching him."
From a maturity standpoint, there's a big difference between Hamilton and Seguin.
"I think they're cut from different cloths to begin with," Thornton said. "I've said it before, but [Patrice Bergeron] was 23 when I got here and he acted like he was older than me at 30. Everyone's cut a little differently. Obviously, we saw what happened with Seggs and things have been out there, but I love Seggs to death and I hope he has all the success in the world in Dallas. But I think Dougie is cut from a different cloth to begin with, so I don't think that will be an issue."
Hamilton admitted he watched the first episode of "Behind the B," but he's not concerned that the front office has any issue with the way he handles himself as a pro.
"Obviously, for me it's about keep getting better, keep learning and listening to what they have to say," Hamilton said. "That's what I have to do and keep developing in their system. If I do that I'll be fine.
"I thought it was pretty cool," Hamilton added. "They weren't hiding too much, obviously. It makes you think when you're at the rink today when there are cameras on watching you all the time, make sure you're conducting yourself in a professional way."
Beginning his pro career and living in Boston was an adjustment at first for Hamilton. On the ice, he showed time and again what the future holds for him and the Bruins, but he also dealt with his share of growing pains. He didn't allow his lifestyle off the ice to negatively affect his production on it.
"It's a little bit different," he said of the pro lifestyle in Boston. "The biggest difference between here and junior is everyone has families and there's not much of hanging out outside the rink too much. When you're at the rink guys are here to work and that's their job. When they leave they go back to their families, so it's a little bit different for the single guys who go home and get bored. There's a lot of downtime just sitting on the couch and looking for things to do and resting."
Being bored is just fine with Hamilton.
"That's pretty evident now that it's important to carry yourself in a good way here," Hamilton said. "With the organization, the media and the fans it's easy to get recognized around the streets. Basically there's always somebody watching you and you just have to remember that."
On the ice, Hamilton learned quite a bit from his rookie season. He played in 42 of the team's 48 games during the lockout-shortened season and registered five goals and 11 assists for 16 points, including a plus-4 rating. Since he had already played half a season in juniors, combined with his play for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships, by the time the regular season came to an end in Boston, Hamilton was spent.
During the team's Stanley Cup run before losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in the finals, Hamilton played only seven games in the playoffs. Other defensemen, including Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference and Wade Redden, were injured at different points, but with the emergence of fellow rookie blueliners Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski, Hamilton often had to watch from the press box.
"I hope people don't read into how it finished as a negative because I thought he had a real good year," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "There's no doubt that his play tapered off a little bit at the end and that could have been a factor of fatigue. We all know he played in the World Juniors and played a ton with his junior team, so I think the season caught up with him a little bit.
"This year he's come back stronger, obviously more confident in knowing exactly what's expected of him and how he fits into our hockey club. He's a lot more comfortable and I think that's going to play definitely to his advantage."
Hamilton's mindset hasn't changed from his rookie season. He simply wants to play as consistently as possible and remain prepared every game.
"You have to be sharp every shift and always prepared, so coming into this year I'm just going to do my best, try to get better and keep learning," he said.
As far as his goals for the 2013-2014 season?
"I really don't set goals for myself statswise or things like that," he said. "I think the biggest thing is keep getting better and learning. Obviously, I want to be on the team and be playing. The end of the year last year and when you're sitting in the press box it's a little bit different and it makes you hungrier to be here and to be playing. I want to earn my spot and contribute."
Hamilton didn't need to watch a reality TV show to know anyone in this league is replaceable. He understands that and his teammates are expecting him to make significant contributions again this season.
"Only good things," said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. "It was such a great season for him last year coming up for a young player and kind of fitting into the team and doing extremely well. I'm expecting to see only better things out of Dougie."