Bruins’ first-round pick Hamilton the product of an athletic family
Doug Hamilton rowed for Canada in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics. In 1984, wife Lynn, then known by her maiden name of Polson, played for Canada’s Olympic basketball team. The Hamiltons now call St. Catherines, Ontario, home.
But Doug Hamilton knows Boston as well as any Massachusetts native.
He’s familiar with the graffiti on the railroad span under the BU Bridge. He knows how every October, the crowds are among the thickest on the Eliot Bridge just outside Harvard Square. And he understands how after a final right-hand bend, the finish line for the Head of the Charles is within sight.
In 1978, Hamilton bought his first boat, a Van Dusen that cost him $3,000, in Boston. He rowed in the Head of the Charles regularly in the 1980s. Hamilton returned last year with one of his best friends and competed under the Kingston Rowing Club banner.
“Old guys’ double,’’ Hamilton said of his entry.
Hamilton will be making more visits to Boston. Not to row, but to watch son Dougie play hockey.
In June, Dougie Hamilton visited Boston and toured TD Garden. On June 24, the Bruins drafted Hamilton with the ninth overall pick at the
Today, Hamilton will conclude a five-day stay in Edmonton and Fort McMurray, Alberta. Hamilton is one of 47 teenagers participating in Hockey Canada’s annual development camp, an important checkmark in determining the final roster for the World Junior Championship. Also present is older brother Freddie, who was drafted by San Jose in 2010.
Representing the Maple Leaf is a family tradition.
“I definitely wanted that opportunity,’’ Dougie Hamilton said. “I wasn’t really sure that I was going to. I had a little bit of an idea that I’d have that opportunity. The best thing for me is to share that with my brother. We both got the call. So it’s pretty special.’’
During the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles, the elder Hamilton won bronze and met his future wife in the Olympic Village. Lynn and her teammates lost in the bronze medal game.
“In my sport, it’s the pinnacle. There’s no professional league,’’ Doug Hamilton said of his two Olympic entries. “In Lynn’s sport, it was very much the same at the time. There was no pro basketball for women other than in Europe. It was the pinnacle for us. We never looked at pro leagues as being important. The pinnacle, for us, was always to put on the jersey of our country. It meant we played against the best of the world.’’
Dougie Hamilton might rival his parents’ international athletic achievements. Based on what his federation’s bosses think of his play during the development camp, Hamilton could make Canada’s junior team, which has its pick of the country’s best under-20 players.
But based on what hockey insiders have seen of Hamilton so far, the world juniors might only be the middle ground for the 6-foot-4-inch, 193-pound defenseman. Although Peter Chiarelli is prompt to caution against premature expectations, the Bruins general manager sees some of three-time Olympian Rob Blake in Hamilton’s game. Marty Williamson coaches Hamilton with the Niagara IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League. Williamson compares Hamilton to slick-skating Calgary defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who played for Team Canada in the 2006 Olympics.
If Hamilton continues on his development curve - he jumped from 16 points as an OHL rookie to 58 points in 2010-11 - he could very well consider a defenseman such as Drew Doughty a future Olympic teammate.
“The first thing that grabs you is that for a big man, he skates so well,’’ Williamson said. “Then you really start to realize his hockey IQ is very good. He understands the game. He’s a guy you can be tough on at times. Then you pat him on the back, and he doesn’t really change. He listens well. He’s not a moper. He doesn’t hang his head when he makes mistakes. He’s really a dream guy to coach. He’s got confidence. He’s smart. He’s got physical tools. He’s something special.’’
Hamilton, a right-shot defenseman, has all the components scouts compile on their dream list for blue liners: height, reach, hockey sense, puck-moving prowess, power-play experience. Last month, Hamilton put all those elements on display at Ristuccia Arena.
The Bruins hopefuls scrimmaged during the development camp’s last two days. Hamilton retrieved pucks efficiently. He started breakouts, either skating the puck out of his own zone with his head up, or hitting forwards with seam passes. During power-play work, Hamilton walked the blue line and hunted for down-low options.
Hamilton looked like Chicago’s Brent Seabrook: a mobile, right-shot, two-way defenseman. In the NHL, such players are among the most sought-after commodities.
“To get a defenseman who’s tall, rangy, can make those fine offensive plays, and still have the range and the ability to play shutdown - I believe he will have that - it’s a great type of player to have,’’ said Chiarelli.
Hamilton was the second defenseman drafted in June. The first was Adam Larsson, who went at No. 4 to New Jersey. The 6-2, 197-pound Larsson played for Skelleftea in the Swedish Elite League last year, skating with and against men. Larsson could be ready to play in the NHL this season.
Hamilton is at least a year away from playing for the Bruins. Maybe two.
Hamilton is more boy than man, an 18-year-old on the reedy side. With the correct training and nutrition, Hamilton could approach 220 pounds, a more appropriate weight for the role he’ll be playing as a pro. Putting on weight the right way takes time.
“His body is developed a little bit more than Dougie’s right now,’’ Williamson said of Larsson. “Larsson’s a little heavier, stockier, more polished possibly. But in the long run, I like the guy [the Bruins] got. In a couple years, you’re going to have a guy at 220 pounds, 6-4. That’s a guy who can skate just as well as Larsson, but be three or four inches taller. That’s a nice thing to have.’’
It is the type of defenseman the Bruins have never drafted on Chiarelli’s watch. In the four previous drafts Chiarelli has overseen, the Bruins selected a forward in the first round: Zach Hamill, Joe Colborne, Jordan Caron, Tyler Seguin. To fill their blue-line holes, the Bruins have acquired young defensemen, including Steven Kampfer, Matt Bartkowski, Colby Cohen, and David Warsofsky.
Mobile, high-end defensemen are hard to find. They take longer to develop. But the payoff can be dramatic. A two-way defenseman touches the game in just about every area. By retrieving pucks and getting them out of the defensive zone, he can elude the forecheck and kick-start the attack. He can quarterback the power play. He makes forwards more dangerous by getting them pucks with speed.
“His decision-making on passing is very good,’’ Williamson said. “He’s always been one of the smartest players on the ice. He’s developing his shot. It’s a good shot, but it can get a little better and quicker. He’s realizing that. He’s got a smartness and understanding of what teams are trying to do against us. He makes the right decisions. He does a real good job of quarterbacking and putting the puck in the right guys’ hands.’’
Hamilton’s natural athleticism is no surprise. That comes from his father, who is 6-2, and his mother, who is 5-8. When Dougie was a boy, he attended his dad’s regattas and his mom’s basketball games. But neither parent played hockey. For that, Freddie and Dougie Hamilton were on their own.
There were lessons, however, that both boys learned from their parents’ athletic accomplishments: hard work, humility, teamwork. They are traits that Williamson regularly sees in the Bruins’ latest first-rounder, especially in his volunteer work around St. Catharines.
“The hockey world knows how good he is and how good he’s supposed to be,’’ Williamson said. “But once you get those guys on your team, you see what good young men they are. That makes an impact on you. My 9-year-old son, the kids on his team get to apply for what number they want. Five kids applied for No. 27. I didn’t think about it at first. But that’s Dougie Hamilton’s number. They all wanted it.’’
Hamilton is the final piece of the Phil Kessel trade with Toronto that had previously netted Seguin and Jared Knight. Seguin projects to be a first-line NHL forward. Knight could be a second- or third-line scoring wing. Hamilton might be a No. 2 defenseman and power-play quarterback. Not a bad haul.