Hamilton is a big, strong kid, imposing at times on the ice, particularly in a league of Clearasiled dreamers. As a pro, he projects more as a jumbo-sized puck mover and point producer than, say, a Chara steel-curtain wannabe. In the weeks and months leading up to the 2011 draft, he was most often compared with the likes of Brent Burns, Jay Bouwmeester, and Rob Blake, all of them NHL big men with decent or better offensive abilities but varying defensive/physical inclinations and skills.
Williamson believes time alongside Chara, be it in games or practice, will help Hamilton manufacture a needed physical presence to his game, one that hasn’t been a necessity for him to develop in junior.
“He’s 6-foot-5. He will fill out that frame to 215 or 220 when he gets into his low-or-middle 20s,” said Williamson, his club with a legitimate shot at winning the Memorial Cup, especially if Hamilton remains on the roster. “There’s just not too many holes in his game. There are small things that he’s going to learn. If he fills out and uses his body more, he’ll realize just how easy he can make the game for himself. I think he is going to have an unbelievable mentor there for him. When you talk about a big man who plays defense, who better to learn from than Chara?’’
Height isn’t an abundant commodity in the Hamilton home. Brother Freddie is the standard-cut, 6-foot, 185-pound pivot, a fifth-round pick of the Sharks in 2010. Lynn, a stay-at-home mom, is 5-8. Doug, an environmental attorney, is no more than 6-2 with barely a frozen patch of hockey background.
“Growing up, he had all sisters,’’ said Doug Hamilton’s towering defenseman of a son. “He might have played house league hockey for a year, but they all wanted to be skiers, so he didn’t have much say in it, I guess.’’
What Lynn and Doug might not have offered in size or hockey savvy, they more than passed on in the way of big dreams. Both were Olympians, suiting up for Canada in the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, Doug as a rower and Lynn a basketball player. When mom and dad have scaled up the side of Olympus, the road to the NHL isn’t so intimidating.
“They definitely helped us a lot,’’ said Hamilton. “Having my brother a year or two ahead of me helped, too, a year or two older having him as another role model. Growing up, my brother and I found hockey, and I don’t think our parents really cared what sport we did. But it was what we fell in love with. We learned a lot from them. For me, I saw early that your dreams can come true with both parents in the Olympics, so playing in the NHL doesn’t seem like a far-fetched thing. For both me and my brother, we set high goals for ourselves — maybe not necessarily goals, but dreams. We both think we can reach that and we learned a lot from [our parents] on how we can get there.’’
For now, there’s a much-anticipated audition awaiting him in Boston. If the CBA gets settled, NHL clubs plan on short training camps, which also will mean short rosters. Chiarelli said earlier this week that he has been in constant contact with Hockey Canada about Hamilton, and he reserves the right to call him to Boston at any hour prior to or during the World Junior tournament.
Chiarelli will talk with Hockey Canada organizers about Hamilton again this weekend and likely at least once more as the tournament unfolds. If NHL camps are ordered open, Chiarelli wants him here from the start. After all, he is the club’s highest-touted blue line prospect since the franchise made Gord Kluzak the No. 1 overall pick in 1982. This may or may not be Hamilton’s time, but it’s high time that everyone begins to find out.
“Just let him grow, let him develop,’’ mused Chiarelli, “and everyone will be very happy with what he becomes — even what he is to start.’’