WILMINGTON, MA — When the Bruins drafted Dougie Hamilton with the ninth overall pick in June’s draft, just about the only knock on the Niagara Ice Dogs defenseman was that he needed to add some muscle to fill out his 6-foot-4 frame.
This summer, Hamilton made it his mission to do just that. In the eight weeks since July’s prospects camp, Hamilton has put on “five or six pounds of muscle” and now weighs 194 pounds, assistant general manager Jim Benning said after Friday’s rookie practice.
“He looked real good today, I thought. He’s skating well,” Benning said. “He’s a young player and he’ll continue to get stronger and bigger. He’s gonna be a good player; it’s just gonna be a matter of time with him.”
Getting bigger isn’t the only thing Hamilton has done since July. At the beginning of August, he attended Canada’s world junior evaluation camp, where he got to compete against some of the best 18- and 19-year-olds in the world. If Hamilton returns to the Ontario Hockey League this season, he’ll be looking to make Canada’s final roster for December’s World Junior Championship.
“There are a lot of good players in Canada, so there were a lot of guys there that are really good,” the 18-year-old Hamilton said of evaluation camp. “It’s nice to kind of compare yourself to the top players your age and a year older and kind of know where you stand. I think you get confidence from that.
“I thought I did pretty well, so I’m pretty happy with it. We’ll see what happens come December.”
Hamilton said he hopes to continue to improve as he faces tougher and tougher competition with the Bruins. Should Hamilton impress enough during rookie camp — including two rookie exhibition games against the Islanders next week — he will likely be invited to the Bruins’ main training camp later this month.
“Obviously when you’re playing with older guys that are faster and stronger, you learn from that,” Hamilton said. “You learn to make quicker plays and you just get more comfortable. If I go back to Niagara, I’ll gain a lot from that. It’ll seem a lot easier.”
Although returning to Niagara for another season seems like the most probable scenario for Hamilton, he hasn’t ruled out sticking with the Bruins just yet.
“I just want to come in and play my best,” he said. “There’s a lot of good d-men, but I’m just gonna show my stuff and what I can do. And whatever they want to do with me, that’s what I’ll do.”
Benning said nothing has been decided in terms of which rookies are going to be invited to the main camp.
“We don’t want to put him in a situation that he can’t handle,” Benning said when asked about Hamilton’s chances. “We’re going to evaluate all the players in these two games we have against the Islanders. There’ll be players from this group that are invited to the main camp, and they’ll see how they do in the main camp. From there, the coaches and [general manager Peter Chiarelli] will decide if they’ll play exhibition games or not. That’s still a long ways off. That’ll take care of itself with time.”
Benning acknowledged that it might be tougher than usual for a rookie — even one as highly-touted as Hamilton — to make the big club given the fact that the Bruins are the defending Stanley Cup champions and return almost the entire roster, but he said they certainly aren’t ruling anything out.
“We’re just gonna have to go through the process of this camp and then main camp,” Benning said. “The one thing about Peter and Claude is if a player deserves to be on the team, then they find a way to get the player on the team.”