By Kirk Luedeke
Dougie Hamilton is one of the more intriguing draft options who possesses the size, skating and skill that could see him develop into a top NHL defenseman someday.
Although he’s projected to go anywhere from fifth to eighth in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn., Friday, the St. Catharines, Ont., native is one the Boston Bruins have gotten a good look at during the 2010-11 season. The 6-foot-4, 195-pound rearguard for the OHL’s Niagara Ice Dogs could slip to the B’s at No. 9 if other players in the mix push their way closer to the front order of the draft.
Hamilton completed the NHL Scouting Combine earlier this month as one of the draft’s higher profile talents. The potential top-five pick was unfazed by what he went through during the fitness testing portion, embracing the pressure and circus atmosphere that presented his latest challenge en route to Friday’s big event.
“It was definitely tough but it was a pretty cool experience,” he said after completing his testing. “Seeing the whole room when I walked in was pretty cool. It’s kind of the same (feeling) when you’re in a game and you have a lot of people watching you. It’s exciting and you kind of take it that way instead of being nervous.”
Hamilton’s stock soared this season after he established a club record for points by a defenseman with 58. He moves well for his size, showing off a good first few steps, strong lateral agility and footwork and the ability to lead the rush. A converted forward from his bantam hockey days, Hamilton shows a willingness to jump up into the play and enjoys the added offensive element to his team.
“I see myself as a sneaky kind of player when it comes to scoring,” Hamilton told hockeyjournal.com during the season. “I like to move in from the point and have had some success sneaking in the back door on some plays this season.”
Hamilton comes from terrific athletic stock, with both parents having been Canadian Olympians in the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles. His father, Doug Sr., was a bronze medal-winning rower, while his mother, Lynn (nee Polson), played on Team Canada’s basketball squad.
“I owe everything to my parents,” he said. “There’s obviously the genetics aspect that they passed down to myself and my brother. They have always supported me in hockey, making sure that I do my best, but never putting a lot of pressure on me. They are a huge part of my success.”
Older brother Freddie is a forward on Niagara who was drafted by the San Jose Sharks a year ago and had a breakout season with the rest of his Ice Dogs teammates.
“Freddie and I are extremely close,” the younger Hamilton said. “He’s been my best friend since I can remember from my earliest days. He’s always been there for me. Having him on the team here in Niagara has been unbelievable and he’s always pushing me to do my best in everything I do.”
The “everything” Hamilton describes extends to his academic achievements. This season he won the CHL Scholastic Player of the Year and OHL’s Bobby Smith Trophy as the player who best combines high standards of play and academic excellence.
“I think it comes down to discipline,” Hamilton said, when asked about the secret of his classroom success. “There are guys who don’t put in the time, won’t make the effort to earn high marks. I’ve always just seen it as a challenge and tried to do my best. It’s a choice I make and, so far, I’ve been able to handle both school and hockey pretty well.”
Hamilton’s focus and drive is a big part of what saw him rise rapidly up draft boards this season. Prior to the Ivan Hlinka tournament in August, where he was a member of Team Canada’s gold medal squad, he was seen more as a late first- or early second-rounder.
If there are knocks on Hamilton’s body of work, the criticisms tend to focus on the fact that he’s not all that physical a player for his size. Other scouts have questioned his natural feel for the game despite being a high achiever in the classroom.
“Sometimes I wonder about the decision making,” one NHL scout told hockeyjournal.com recently. “There’s no question he’s an intelligent kid, but I think he’s still figuring out the position and he needs to focus on keeping things simple out there.”
Hamilton has all of the physical attributes that NHL clubs find highly appealing. He’s poised, articulate and mature. The positives outweigh the negatives, and the 18-year-old would be a fine value pick if he manages to make it to Boston’s selection.
Kirk Luedeke will be in St. Paul, Minn., this weekend to cover the NHL Entry Draft for New England Hockey Journal and hockeyjournal.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org