Rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton is already a fan favorite in Boston even though he's only played four games as an NHL player.
Bruins fans at TD Garden started chanting "Dougie" during the third period of the team's 4-2 win over the New York Islanders on Friday night, and inside the locker room after the game, Hamilton's teammates were not shy about sharing their thoughts on his impressive start to the season.
"Looking at him now, it’s pretty amazing that he got passed up eight times to go ninth overall in the 2011 draft," said Bruins forward Milan Lucic after Friday's game.
"We’re real fortunate to have him. He’s got a lot of skill, he’s got a lot of poise, he plays with a lot of confidence."
Hamilton had two assists against the Islanders and made an impact offensively throughout the entire game.
On Patrice Bergeron's goal in the third period to widen the Bruins lead (see video below), Hamilton started the rush up the ice with a great first pass out of the defensive zone to Brad Marchand, who found Bergeron for a breakaway opportunity.
Hamilton also set up Boston's first goal of the game when he fired a shot from the point that created a rebound which Shawn Thornton pounced on to open the scoring.
With the Bruins struggling so badly on the power play (ranked 27th in NHL), Hamilton should continue to see a lot of ice time.
He's one of the few players on the team who is aggressive on the power play by taking a lot of shots and moving the puck quickly to create scoring chances.
Boston didn't have a true "offensive defenseman" before Hamilton arrived this year, and he definitely gives the team another element that it hasn't had since Dennis Wideman was traded before the 2010-11 season.
Hamilton has the most offensive talent of any Bruins defenseman. His passing skills, vision, smooth skating, intelligence and shot are all so polished for a 19-year-old player, and it's no surprise that he's been able to be productive offensively in the early part of his NHL career.
Like a lot of rookies around the league, Hamilton has been able to step into the NHL after playing competitive hockey in the OHL and for Team Canada during the lockout months, which has definitely benefited him.
"He’s been playing since September with his junior team, he’s gone to the World Juniors, so he’s played in high-caliber tournaments," said Bruins head coach Claude Julien.
"So, he’s got that experience and he’s come in here with a good jump, having played four months of hockey and right now he’s playing with a lot of confidence. You have to be pleased and impressed with a young player playing the way he has been."
Since he's already in great shape and has been in a normal hockey routine for quite some time, Julien has not been hesitant to give Hamilton a lot of ice time in his first week as an NHL player.
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The goal for Hamilton is to keep improving and adapting to the speed and structure of the NHL, and playing with a veteran group of defenseman will definitely help.
"I think I am learning new things every day and trying to adjust," said Hamilton. "I think I have gotten a lot of good coaching and help from my teammates. I’m just trying to get better."
Hamilton still has plenty to prove at the NHL level, but the progress that he has made thus far is an encouraging sign for the Bruins because it normally takes young defensemen longer to develop than forwards.
"He’s been playing really good, he’s really poised with the puck and it’s good to see him looking comfortable out there, playing his game and not trying to do anything that’s extraordinary," said Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk.
"He’s making the right plays, the simple plays and he’s doing a really good job at defending guys too."
Fans must be patient with Hamilton because he will have plenty of ups-and-downs throughout his rookie season, but it's already clear that he will play an important role in the team's pursuit of the Stanley Cup in 2013.
All Quotes obtained first hand.
Nicholas Goss is a Boston Bruins columnist at Bleacher Report. He was also B/R's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston and has covered the Bruins since March 2011. Follow him on Twitter.
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