A few months later Hamhuis is an Olympian.
Hamhuis was among the surprises when Canada named its team for the 2014 Sochi Olympics on Tuesday morning, earning a spot ahead of Dan Boyle and Brent Seabrook, who both won gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games, among others.
Despite representing Canada seven times internationally -- twice at the World Junior Championship and five times at the World Championship -- and being a part of the Olympic orientation camp in the fall, it was hard to picture Hamhuis at the Sochi Games as he was struggling to adjust to the new system installed by Tortorella.
"I didn't get off to the start I wanted but just tried to stay patient with myself and patiently get better, and I think my game's come around," said Hamhuis, who has four goals, 13 points and a plus-12 rating in 44 games while often being matched up against opponents' best lines.
"I didn't know what they were thinking really. They've got a lot of tough decisions to make. I thought they maybe would have called [Monday], so I was kind of waiting by the phone all day, and then I had a bit of a restless sleep [Monday] night, and it was certainly exciting to get the call this morning."
Hamhuis isn't flashy, but he provides a steady defensive presence on the left side of a Canadian defense corps loaded with offensive talent on the right, including players like P.K. Subban and Shea Weber, who was Hamhuis' teammate with the Nashville Predators and at the 2009 World Championship.
"I'm not sure how their decision-making went, but I'll certainly be drawing on my experiences on the international ice surface once we go over there," Hamhuis said. "I've got so much experience, and I've tried to maintain that for four years. My game has continued to grow since, and I'm trying to get better all the time."
Hamhuis has been at his best since injuries to regular Canucks defensemen Alexander Edler, who was named to the Swedish Olympic team Tuesday, Ryan Stanton and Andrew Alberts. As injuries piled up, so did the minutes for Hamhuis, who has averaged close to 30 minutes over the past nine games.
"Well deserved," Tortorella said of the Olympic spot he lobbied last week for Hamhuis to get. "Well deserved for all our guys. It's a tremendous honor and seven on our team -- really good stuff."
In addition to Hamhuis and goalie Roberto Luongo, who won gold for Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the Canucks had three players named to the Swedish team on Tuesday. Edler was joined by twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin, though the defenseman has to sit out the first two games because of a suspension for a knee-on-knee hit on Canada's Eric Staal at the last World Championship. Despite that and a knee injury that has kept him out since early December, Edler wasn't at all surprised to get the call.
"There was a few things a little bit against me, but the coach made it clear pretty early that wasn't going to matter," said Edler, who has been skating for a week but has no timeline for a return.
Kesler, Luongo and the Sedin twins are all returning Olympians with past medals, but all were excited to be part of it again.
"In Europe, playing for your country is always big," said Henrik Sedin, who won gold at the 2006 Torino Olympics and again at last year's World Championship in Sweden.
"It's a great honor," added Luongo. "This is my third time, and it's just as special as the first two. [The Vancouver gold-medal game win] was a huge moment not only for myself but for all the guys on that team and for Canada. You still look at replays and get the chills and the goose bumps, and I think that's probably going to stay there for the rest of my days, so hopefully we'll make some more good memories here."