Hamilton progressing, even if it means taking a step back at critical points during a game
Dougie Hamilton has had quite the rookie season. He leads Bruins’ defenseman with 10 points (one goal, nine assists) and has been the engineer of a number of game-winning plays – he also has two assists in the past two games.
As of late, however, Bruins’ Head Coach Claude Julien has been careful to throw Hamilton out on the ice in every critical situation. It has not been that Hamilton isn’t capable of getting the job done, more than it has been Julien wanting the 19-year-old to learn and gain confidence, rather than be let down if he makes a mistake.
“I think Dougie, to me – his development is going just as expected,” said Julien, following the Bruins’ morning skate on Sunday. “I think we’ve given him more ice time at times, sometimes we’ve taken some away.
“It’s certainly not been because he’s not a good player; it’s been about making sure, first of all, we win a hockey game, and second of all, that we put him into an area that he can grow and not put him in an area where he’s going to get discouraged.”
In games or situations that Hamilton has had trouble, Julien and his coaching staff have made sure to sit down with the young defenseman the next day to break down things that he can improve on.
“There’s times that there were some games you saw where he struggled a little bit more in certain areas of the game,” explained Julien. “Instead of exposing him, we just pulled him back and get work with him the next day and show him some video clips.
“He’s a quick learner, and we’re going to develop him so that he becomes an elite defenseman in this league.”
Even at 19, Hamilton has understood the need to sit at certain points of the game. Julien said Hamilton’s poise – the popular word to describe the Toronto native – helps when he’s going through a rough patch. According to Julien, Hamilton’s attitude and mindset have been to do whatever it takes to improve
“He is very calm, he’s very poised,” said the B’s bench boss. “You can see that in his play, too – the way he moves the puck for a young defenseman, a 19-year-old, to come in and be put in that kind of situation, I like the way he handles himself.
“No matter what happens with him, he never gets discouraged. Everything that [has] happened, so far, with him, whether it’s been giving him a little bit more ice or taking some away, he expected all that stuff before he even got here.
“He even said to us, ‘If I need to sit out to be a better player, I’ll sit out. I’m going to do whatever it takes to be here and to be a better player.’ So, he’s got a real open mind to it all.”
Julien compared Hamilton with Tyler Seguin, when No. 19 first got to the NHL during the 2010-11 season. Julien says it takes time for young players to get used to playing against much stronger and skilled men.
“Right now, he’s learning to play with guys that are much stronger than what he’s used to,” said Julien. “That in itself, you have to adapt to. You saw that with Tyler Seguin in his first year, where in junior he just skated all over the ice, but it was a different situation for him against big, strong men.
“It’s the same thing with Dougie. That’s the way we look at our young players, and that’s the way we want to handle them. We’d rather go with them slowly, but progress, than throw him to the wolves and have to take a step back to put him back on track.”
Hamilton’s calm and cool attitude was on display earlier today – he, along with most of the Bruins, did not participate in the optional morning skate – when he was asked about his first B’s-Habs game at the Garden.
“I think it’s just a better atmosphere. When the fans are into it, the players are more into it too. It seems like it’s going to be a more intense game, so I think that’s what you want is to play a good game,” said Hamilton, of what makes a Bruins-Canadiens matchup more exciting.
“Just, for me, at this point – with the schedule coming up – you just stay off the ice when you can so you’ll be fresh for tonight, and I think it’s pretty normal.”