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Hamilton signs for three years

Johnny Boychuk of the Bruins engages in a spirited tussle with the Panthers’ Jack Skille in the second period. Johnny Boychuk of the Bruins engages in a spirited tussle with the Panthers’ Jack Skille in the second period. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
By Fluto Shinzawa and Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / December 9, 2011
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They are big words for Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, who already has one of the game’s top defensemen, Zdeno Chara, in the fold through 2018.

But with his latest signing of 18-year-old Dougie Hamilton, Chiarelli believes he has another top-pairing defenseman in the mix - one who could quarterback the power play while also playing shutdown minutes against first lines.

“He’s going to put up points just because of his skill, his skating, and his passing,’’ Chiarelli said of Hamilton, who yesterday signed a three-year, entry-level contract. His cap hit is $925,000. “We want him to focus on his two-way play, because we know he can do that other stuff. The other stuff isn’t his meat and potatoes. It’s his two-way play. I hope he’ll be a No. 1 defenseman.’’

Hamilton was the final piece of the Phil Kessel deal with Toronto. The No. 9 overall pick of the 2011 draft, Hamilton could be the home-grown, top-four defenseman the Bruins have gone without since Chiarelli became GM in 2006.

“Lot of factors involved, but I think he’ll challenge for a spot next year,’’ Chiarelli said.

In 29 games this season for Niagara, Hamilton is leading his Ontario Hockey League club in scoring, with 11 goals and 31 assists. The righthanded-shooting Hamilton is on Team Canada’s preliminary World Junior Championship roster. Chiarelli projects Hamilton to make the final roster because of his skating, hockey sense, and two-way presence.

“He’s got a real good stick,’’ Chiarelli said. “He knocks pucks down. He’s always in the lane with his stick. That’s hockey sense. But it’s also a real mature attribute to have. He’s got a lot of mature skills that are already developed. And he’s still growing.’’

Hamilton is eligible to play another year of junior next season. However, he may start collecting his NHL paycheck in 2012-13 if he fulfills his employer’s expectations. Hamilton is not eligible to play in AHL Providence next season.

“That’s what I’m working toward right now,’’ Hamilton said of his chances of making the Boston roster next year. “I think I’ve improved a lot since I got drafted and over the course of the year. Obviously, the team is really good and they’re doing well right now. I think next summer is going to be an important summer for me as far as my development and for my future.’’

Attack mode

Brian Campbell juices the Panthers’ attack, giving them that extra dimension a puck-moving defenseman brings. Campbell came to Sunrise, Fla., over the summer from Chicago, aiding ex-Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon in the rebuilding of the long-suffering franchise.

“On the power play, he’s not so much the shooter as he is the setup guy,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien, asked how much attention is given to Campbell in Boston’s game plan. “And they’ve got some shooters back there - [Jason] Garrison, [Dmitry] Kulikov, guys that can shoot the puck well. And [Tomas] Fleischmann’s been good. So you’ve got to dissect that in regards to, ‘We need to take his space away from him, make him move the puck.’ But at the same time, you’ve got to be aware of what he brings and where he’s dangerous and in what areas.’’

Campbell, also an ex-Sabre, yesterday morning ranked second among NHL defensemen with 23 points, only one behind Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson. Garrison, signed as a free agent out of Minnesota-Duluth in 2008, began the day with eight goals, tops among blue liners.

The Panthers also started the day with three players averaging a point per game or more, all of whom were among the game’s top 16 scorers. Stephen Weiss entered at 11-18-29, followed by ex-Bruins prospect Kris Versteeg (12-16-28) and Fleischmann (12-16-28). No other NHL team placed three players with averages of a point per game or better among the top 16 scorers.

Whale of a job

The Panthers have ex-Hartford Whaler Kevin Dineen directing their bench as a rookie head coach.

“And I’m fortunate to have a couple of stinky old Bruins - Robbie Tallas, Gord Murphy, and Craig Ramsay - with great experience to help us out,’’ said Dineen.

Dineen then noted that the task of taking on the Bruins these days isn’t what it might have been earlier in the season.

“We certainly would have liked to catch the Bruins in the first two weeks of the season,’’ noted Dineen, “when they had that little hangover going.’’

The Bruins were 3-7-0 in October, then spent the next five weeks as the hottest club in the Original 30 prior to Tuesday’s 2-1 loss in Winnipeg.

Travel plans

The Bruins will work out today, then board their flight for tomorrow night’s matchup in Columbus with the Blue Jackets.

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