When asked yesterday about players he was interested in tracking from this season to 2009-10, Providence coach Rob Murray offered three names, all first-year pros: Zach Hamill, Matt Marquardt, and Jordan Knackstedt.
"These guys, they've got to have good summers," said Murray. "They've got to make sure they come back prepared and don't cheat themselves as far as where they are in their conditioning. I'll be interested to see those three guys come back."
Hamill, the No. 8 pick in the 2007 draft, didn't start the season on time because of a thumb injury that required surgery. Once he came back, Hamill served mostly as a No. 3 center. During the regular season, Hamill scored 13 goals and 13 assists in 65 regular-season games. In the playoffs, Hamill put up a 1-5--6 line in 16 games, only two points more than he posted in nine postseason matches in 2007-08 when he joined Providence after concluding his junior career in Everett.
"Ham didn't have the year he expected to have," Murray said. "The injury didn't help at the beginning of the season. Saying that, he still scored 13 goals. He probably didn't have the production he had hoped for. But everybody's development curve -- and I don't care if you're a first-round pick or a seventh-round pick -- is at a different pace. Zach is probably a guy who is going to take longer. He's on the right track."
During his draft year, Hamill led the WHL in scoring (32-61--93 in 69 games). In 2007-08, Hamill scored 26 goals and 49 assists in 67 regular-season matches. The Bruins are hoping the 20-year-old Hamill can become a top-two center in Providence in 2009-10. So far, Hamill has shown hints of offensive creativity in the AHL.
"One of the things that Zach has -- there's a reason he's a guy that was taken in the first round -- is excellent vision," Murray said. "He probably sees plays that other guys don't. It's just like [Marc Savard]. With Savvy, how many guys make plays like him? I'm not saying Zach is on Savvy's level, but he is of the breed. He's that kind of player that can make those plays. Again, you have to be able to see those plays and have the creativity to think that way. Zach is one of those guys. His development is going to lead to that."
Marquardt (2006) and Knackstedt (2007) were seventh-round picks who were goal scorers in juniors. The Bruins acquired Marquardt from Columbus for Jonathan Sigalet. In 2006-07, Marquardt potted 41 goals. This season, the 6-foot-3, 229-pound Marquardt scored nine goals and 13 assists. In 2007-08, Knackstedt scored 31 goals for Moose Jaw. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Knackstedt put up a 10-16--26 line for Providence this season.
During the season, the big wings got an on-ice tutorial from Cam Neely on puck protection and using their size along the boards.
"Jordan and Matt are two guys that had success in junior," said Murray. They were probably put into a different role here. With the makeup of our team and where they fit in, they were fourth-line players. I'm sure that at no time were they in that position as juniors. In junior, you're trying to make plays and trying to beat guys one-on-one. I'm asking them to chip it in and go get it. Crash and bang. They hope they can get off that fourth line. As second-year players, they should be able to, as long as they're making the right strides."