Ian Clark's On Hockey: Bruins' Hamilton acts like a veteran
Boston Bruins rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton is just 19 years old, yet there doesn't seem to be any hesitation from coach Claude Julien to throw him on the ice in any circumstance.
It's a far cry from how Tyler Seguin was handled two seasons ago when he himself was a 19-year-old rookie. Heck, it's a far cry from how Seguin is still handled now in his third season of NHL hockey.
The difference comes down to poise and maturity. Simply put, Hamilton does not look like a 19-year-old kid learning the NHL game at arguably its toughest position. There are no kid gloves needed with this kid.
"We've got a guy in Hamilton who has been pretty calm through everything," Bruins head coach Claud Julien said.
Seguin was eased into the lineup as a rookie, sitting out for several games early in that 2010-11 before going on to play in 74 games (with 11 goals and 11 assists). He was also held off the power play unit for most of the year.
Not so with Hamilton, who has seen plenty of ice time on the power play and was moved to the top unit (replacing Zdeno Chara) in practice on Friday.
It goes back to the poise and maturity and how that translates to success on the ice for Hamilton. He makes good decisions in his own end of the ice, which is his priority. But he also weaves that into offensive success with smart and accurate clearing passes that send the Bruins the other way.
And in the offensive zone, Hamilton has shown he can be a set-up man (four assists so far) and crank hard, rebound-making shots on the net. He will also join the rush, making good decisions on when to join the play or hang back.
And Hamilton's size (6-foot-4) means he can throw the body and once he puts some more weight on (he's a bit lean at 200 pounds) he will become that much more of a force along the boards.
It hasn't hurt Hamilton's development that Boston has a deep and experienced corps of defensemen to mentor him.
"He's coming into this league and I think we have some pretty good people who are in that dressing room every day," Julien said. "We know what kind of guys Zdeno (Chara) and Dennis Seidenberg, (Andrew Ference) and others are. I think Zdeno said it best when he said 'he's not a rookie, he's just a new player in our locker room.' We don't necessarily look at those players as rookies and treat them like rookies, we believe in treating everybody fairly. By doing that, those young players respect the older players for doing that and they do what they have to do."
Everything Hamilton has shown thus far indicates that he will be a difference-maker and a stud in the NHL for a long time.
Which brings us to Seguin, who always appears ready to break out into stardom yet has not quite made it happen yet. He scored 29 goals and 37 assists in his second season, racking up a solid 67 points.
Those numbers would be a career season for many veterans. But Seguin, the second overall pick in the 2010 draft, has loftier expectations placed upon his shoulders. Consistency seems to be the toughest nut to crack with Seguin, who got off to a slow start this season and has just two goals thus far, one of them an empty-netter.
Seguin has also been criticized for a lack of toughness in the dirty areas. Motivation always seems to be needed from the coaching staff.
"It's starting to come. I think he's skating a lot better. I think when he's more assertive he's a better player," Julien said. "By skating more and doing the right thing like forechecking, he's turning pucks over and getting on players a little quicker. He's being a little more assertive and I think things are going his way now."
On Wednesday, Julien got a spark from Seguin by moving him to the top line with David Krecji and Milan Lucic, dropping Nathan Horton down. The combo scored a good transition goal, moving out of their own end and driving the net hard. They did it again soon after and a 1-0 hole at Montreal became a 2-1 win.
But is it a permanent fix or something to get Seguin going?
"We don't want to overlook that that line with (Lucic, Krecji and Horton) was our best line. (Wednesday) it's not that they were bad, they just weren't generating much and neither was the other line so we made that kind of a switch," Julien said. "Do I try it a little longer or go back to our regular lines? If something happens, we can always switch back."
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A benefit hockey game between the Crotched Mountain Wild and a team of Boston Bruins alumni will take place today at 1:30 p.m. (opening ceremonies) at Sullivan Arena on the campus of St. Anselm College in Goffstown.
The game will benefit the Crotched Mountain Foundation's Accessible Recreation and Sports program, which provides hundreds of lessons each year for children and adults with disabilities.
Bruins alumni expected to participate include Glen Featherstone, Ken Linseman, Reggie Lemelin, Rick Middleton, Terry O'Reilly and Bruce Shoebottom.
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The Manchester Monarchs are at Providence today for a 3:05 p.m. game. With the "Pink in the Rink" breast cancer awareness game moved to Tuesday night (7 p.m.) at Verizon Wireless Arena, the Monarchs will now have five games in eight days.
Following Tuesday's game, Manchester will welcome in St. John's for home games Friday and Saturday, then head to Connecticut next Sunday.
Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is email@example.com.