Curtis Hamilton is a big, powerful forward who doesn't mind dishing out the hits, and at 6-foot-2 and 209 pounds, he can take them as well.
But it didn't work out so well this season, as three different hits combined to short-circuit his 2009-10 campaign. A pair of broken collarbones and a separated shoulder -- all on his left side -- limited the highly talented Saskatoon Blades left wing to just 26 games.
He had 16 points in his limited action, and scouts thought enough of him that he is No. 42 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2010 Entry Draft, June 25-26 in Los Angeles. It's a jump of 14 spots from January's midterm ranking, which is pretty significant for someone that played in just one regular-season game during the 2010 portion of the schedule.
"He has a very good upside with all his tools," Peter Sullivan, who scouts Western Canada for NHL Central Scouting, told NHL.com. "He's not an aggressive player by penalty minutes, but he finishes his checks in all areas and is very effective. Good size and skates very well, also. He's strong on both the penalty kill and the power play. You see him and just like what he brings to the table."
Hamilton's trouble began Nov. 26, when he slipped chasing a puck during a WHL Super Series game against Russia, and crashed into the boards, breaking his left collarbone. Doctors advised against surgery, and he missed nine weeks while the bone healed. But in his first game back, Jan. 22 against Kootenay, he was hit into the boards, breaking the same bone in the same place.
This time he had surgery, which sidelined him until the start of the playoffs. He had 2 goals and 3 points in the Blades' first-round four-game sweep of Red Deer, but in the first game of the second round against Brandon, he was hit from behind and suffered a separated left shoulder.
"Not a lot of luck this year," Hamilton told NHL.com.
Especially in a season where scouts were chronicling his every move.
"Obviously playing that short amount of games hurts you quite a bit," Hamilton said. "They (NHL teams) have been asking Saskatoon for videos of me because a lot of them didn't get out to see me (and) the ones that did didn't see me a whole lot. Probably hurts my draft stock, but at the end of the day I'll probably be picked by somebody."
He likely won't have to wait too long to hear his name called at Staples Center.
"This year our phone rang steady wanting to know when he was going to be back playing," Saskatoon coach Lorne Molleken told NHL.com. "And certainly when he did come back, there were a number of NHL teams watching."
What they saw was a player who knows how to do just about everything on the ice.
"He started as a 15-year-old with us, and we played him in all situations right off the start, power play and penalty killing," Molleken said. "He's one of the best penalty killers in our league. He blocks shots, he anticipates well. He's a real intelligent player. That's where his strengths lie -- his ability to read the game."
Hamilton's ability to put the puck in the net is beyond question. He had 14 goals in his first full WHL season, and 20 goals last season as a 16-year-old. He also had 5 points in five games for Canada at the 2009 World Under-18 Championship.
"He takes a lot of pride in the defensive part of it," Molleken said.
Hamilton knows to play that all-round game at his size involves dishing out and receiving a fair amount of punishment. Three serious injuries, however, won't cause him to change his style of play.
"That can't go through your mind, especially a bigger guy like myself," Hamilton said. "Can't shy away from finishing checks or taking checks -- you won't be successful then. The first couple times I was injured, that was a big deal, coming back and getting in a couple hits and taking a couple hits off the start. Hitting is a big part of my game. I can't be shying away."
Despite all the adversity he faced this season, Hamilton remained a positive influence with the team.
"The biggest thing is he was a big part of our team and a big part of our success," Molleken said. "He wanted to be around the players at all times. Just having him there was a real bonus. He's a young guy that's got a real bright future in this game.
"We wanted him to be around the team. He's one of the leaders on our team, he's one of the guys in the locker room that has a lot of fun, keeps things loose. It was so important to have him even though he wasn't playing. He's a student of the game. He's been brought up in a hockey family (his father, Bruce, played for the Blades and is GM of the Kelowna Rockets), and certainly I think that anytime a young guy goes through this type of situation or adversity, it makes you stronger in the long run."
Hamilton was smart enough to make the most of his time out.
"You get to watch a lot of hockey, at home and on the road, and on TV, too," he said. "That's probably the best part. If there is a positive about being injured, you get to watch hockey and see things differently, through a scout's eye or the fans' eye. You can watch everything, not just worry about yourself out there. It's a little bit different, but at the same time it's a different experience and it's good for you."
That's the kind of attitude that Molleken believes should fill in any gap for NHL teams who didn't see Hamilton live.
"I think some teams feel real comfortable and some teams might be a little hesitant," he said. "I know his character and his personality and it's very difficult for these young guys to miss as much time as he did. He remained positive, he worked his butt off and he's got lots to prove. Given the opportunity, nobody will be disappointed."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org