Ian Clark's On Hockey: Hamilton, Bourque seem set to make Bruins' team
WILMINGTON, Mass. -- There will likely be two new players in Boston Bruins sweaters when the season opens Saturday and both of them come with a lot of buildup attached to their names, albeit for different reasons.
Dougie Hamilton and Chris Bourque are poised to lock in roster spots with the Bruins, who open at home Saturday against the New York Rangers. Hamilton comes in with the "can't miss prospect" tag while Bourque carries forth the legendary name of his father, Ray.
Both have things to prove.
Hamilton was the Bruins' first-round draft pick in 2011, selected ninth overall. He is just 19 years old (and looks 12), but he is a monster defenseman at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds. The scouting report says he can do it all, but just how quickly he can do it all in the NHL will be the question.
"It's been awesome," Hamilton said of training camp. "Just to be here with these players and be able to watch them and learn from them and try to be like them has been really fun for me. It's really exciting to be able to do that. I'm just trying to learn as much as I can and get better every day."
Hamilton said that in junior hockey, the coaches have just let him play. And play he has, scoring eight goals and 33 assists in 32 games with Niagara this season in the OHL.
"Sometimes in junior you get to a point where no one is really telling you what to do and helping you out so to be able to come here and have people tell me what to do all the time is definitely nice," Hamilton said. "I'm always trying to learn from different guys and whoever will help me out. I like that."
Hamilton appears ready from a maturity level. The unknown for him resides in his ability to adapt to the pro game and work out the butterflies that can make an otherwise confident player hesitate as Hamilton did in Tuesday's Black and Gold scrimmage with the Providence Bruins.
"I thought Dougie was okay. He might have looked a little bit nervous. He's (usually) more poised with the puck than he was (in the scrimmage)," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We kind of expected that it's his first game and guys put a lot of pressure on themselves, and I think the biggest thing for us will be to calm him down."
As for left winger Bourque, wearing the spoked B is a dream come true. Traded from the Washington organization in the offseason, Bourque could not be happier with his new home.
"I was thrilled when I got the news that I was getting traded here," Bourque said. "Growing up being a huge Bruins fan and cheering for them the better part of my life. It's always been my favorite team to come to training camp here and put on a Bruins a sweater is really exciting for me."
Bourque is a late bloomer, just now getting a real NHL shot just shy of his 27th birthday after 13 games of NHL experience spread out over nine seasons.
But Bourque has quickly carved out a spot on the third or fourth line with Boston and having played 32 games with Providence this season has him in peak condition.
"I'm in mid-season form. I've been playing since October. I'm in game shape," Bourque said. "The pace is a little faster up here but you kind of get used to that. I'm starting to get my legs. I'm starting to feel pretty good."
Bourque has been an effective scorer at every stop on his career. His arrival in Boston may have looked like a favor to his old man, but he can play the game. Bourque led the AHL in scoring with Hershey last season with 27 goals and 66 assists for 93 points.
In practice Wednesday Bourque was paired with center Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley.
"It's really fun playing with some really smart players out there," Bourque said. "I feel like the chemistry is coming along pretty well. It's only been four days or so but it feels pretty good."
Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He may be reached at email@example.com.