Not a lot can slow down Dougie Hamilton at this point. OK, there was that 10-game suspension for a hit to the head on Sudbury’s Michael MacDonald, but on the ice Hamilton has had few peers this season. The Niagara IceDogs star was cruising to the defensemen scoring title in the Ontario League and already has a bronze medal from the world juniors to show for a campaign that also has Memorial Cup potential. Even though Canada always shoots for gold at the WJC, Hamilton took away some great memories from Alberta, especially since brother and IceDogs teammate Freddie was along for the ride.
“Probably my favorite hockey moment so far,” Dougie said. “To do it with my brother was pretty special.”
Though the 6-foot-4, 193-pound powerhouse appeared to be a shoo-in for duty, the 18-year-old took nothing for granted and noted that during the final tryout camp, nervousness was inevitable.
“You don’t know if you’re going home in a couple days or leaving for a month,” he said.
Hamilton ended up leaving for a month and having a big impact for Canada. In particular, the offensively gifted blueliner kick-started the Canucks’ near-comeback against Russia in the exhilarating semifinal eventually won 6-5 by the visitors. With Canada down 6-1, but on the power play, Hamilton snuck in from the point and banged home a puck past netminder Andrei Vasilevski. It was a pretty good signal the Boston Bruins first-rounder wasn’t going to roll over.
“Definitely one of the craziest games I’ve been in,” Hamilton said. “We saw our gold medal dream slipping away. We got frustrated, but then the goals started coming our way and it felt like we were winning.”
Though the effort was for naught, Hamilton impressed with his determination.
“The Russian game, I thought that was his best game,” said Jim Benning, an assistant GM with the Bruins. “He got a lot of good experience there and a lot of ice time.”
Before the season even started Hamilton had another career eye-opener when he attended his first NHL training camp. The ninth overall pick actually had to look up for once when his defense partner was revealed to be 6-foot-9 Norris Trophy winner and team captain Zdeno Chara. The pair practised together for a week and the rookie soaked up the lessons like a sponge.
“He’s one of the smartest guys on the ice,” Hamilton said. “Really vocal. You could tell he was one of the leaders. A lot of attention to detail; you have to put the puck right on the tape.”
Benning, who noted Boston was able to get Hamilton so low in the draft because teams ahead of the B’s were looking for goal-scoring, saw the Chara matchup as a way for the kid to gain confidence right away. Not that Hamilton is without skill himself.
“Every day at camp he got better,” Benning said. “He’s a great skater for his size and he can handle the puck, but he also plays physical.”
Between Chara, Adam McQuaid and Johnny Boychuk, there’s a lot of beef on the Bruins’ back end already, so Hamilton really adds to the spoils.
But before he gets to his next NHL training camp, Hamilton has a chance to do some major damage in the OHL playoffs. Niagara was tabbed as a contender before the season even began and despite a choppy start, is well-positioned for the post-season. Adding 6-foot-7, 252-pound Dallas first-rounder Jamie Oleksiak from Saginaw made the IceDogs that much more formidable, with Ryan Strome (New York Islanders, fifth overall in 2011) and Mark Visentin (Phoenix, 27th overall in ’10) piling on the talent. Hamilton may have a bronze already, but he’s got the tools to take Niagara all the way.
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