– The “Teach Me How to Dougie” t-shirts have already found their way to Causeway Street. The Dougie dance moves have popped up on the jumbotron. And the chants of “Dougie, Dougie” have echoed through the Garden.
There is no doubt that the Dougie Hamilton era in Boston has begun. Through 11 games, the 19-year-old, rookie defenseman has been called poised enough times to last a lifetime.
But, it is so true. The 6-foot-5, 199 pounder patrols the ice as well as any defenseman on the Bruins roster. His ability to fit the puck through the slightest of seams on a breakout, his knack for getting his shot from the point through traffic, and his smooth-as-silk skating have made the soft-spoken Toronto native an instant star across New England.
With all that being said, he is just 11 games into his NHL career. There will be highs and there will be lows as his learning curve continues. Being a rookie means gaining a lot of new knowledge and information on the fly and sometimes it doesn’t come easy.
Hamilton racked up four assists in his first five game, but hasn’t registered a point over his last six. However, even though the offensive statistics have tapered, Hamilton is still performing at a high level for a player just a dozen or so games into his career.
“I think Doug is going through what a first year player would go through,” said Bruins Head Coach, Claude Julien, earlier this week. “He was outstanding at the beginning, certainly not poor now, but to expect this guy to be outstanding the whole season is not being realistic.
“I know he set the bar pretty high with his early play, but he’s certainly not a poor player for us. The points may not be coming as much as they did at the beginning, but he’s still a pretty poised player. Whatever mistakes he makes, we’re working with him and showing him those kind of things.
“He’s going through exactly what we expected him to go through: being a good player that’s learning along the way. But, we certainly can’t complain about the way he has handled himself. He is 19 years old and the amount of ice time that he’s getting and how well he’s playing is pretty impressive for us anyways.”
Julien has also been impressed with the way Hamilton has taken it upon himself to find ways to improve, whether it is watching video or talking with one of his coaches.
“He does, and he’s already caught onto coming in on his own,” said Julien, on whether Hamilton has been picking up things quickly. “We’ve got some computers out there that guys can look at their shifts, and he does that on his own. He wants to see things, and if he’s got some questions he’s not afraid to come and ask.
“We’ve built that relationship with him that he feels comfortable coming to see us with some issues or questions or whatever it may be, so we’re really working with him as best we can because we see the potential in him.”
In addition to his coaches, Hamilton has had one of the best groups of defenseman in the league to learn from. Zdeno Chara, his partner Dennis Seidenberg, and his new roommate Adam McQuaid have all been there to show the youngster the way.
“He’s been doing extremely well,” said Chara. “I think he’s just going to be getting better and better. He’s not playing every situation, yet. But, those situations he is playing in, he’s doing extremely well for his age and the experience he has.”
Hamilton says his transition to the NHL has been going well, and points to those other defenseman as big reason why.
“I think it’s pretty good, so far,” Hamilton said following practice at Ristuccia Arena on Thursday. “I think being able to learn from the guys, it’s helped me out a lot. I think I’ve improved a lot since I’ve got here, getting used to the game and stuff like that. It’s been a lot of fun.”
For a 19-year-old, living alone in a new city, one of the largest in the country, could be daunting. But, Hamilton doesn’t have to worry. McQuaid stepped up and offered that No. 27 stay at his condo.
“Obviously, you don’t really want to be in a hotel the whole time. It’s really nice of Adam to let me in, it’s been really good so far, living with him. Just makes it a lot of easier on me,” said Hamilton.
“I’ve never lived away from home before," he said, before adding genuinely with a smile, "So, cooking some meals and having to clean up after myself, things like that. It’s pretty cool, a lot of fun.”
On the ice, Hamilton’s offensive talent has been undeniable, but his focus is on learning to play in the defensive zone. He used a familiar word to describe what is going to help him improve in his own end.
“I just have to be patient and that’s part of being poised,” Hamilton said. “I’m just trying to be relaxed and calm. I think that’s my game, just trying to make good plays. I think there’s a lot of things that I’ve learned and [I] am continuing to learn in my D-zone, making certain passes and things like that.”
Because Hamilton’s focus is on his defensive game, he says, right now, any offensive production is just a side benefit.
“I think it’s more of a bonus,” the rookie said of his offense. “I think in the last couple games I could have had more [points], but that’s just the way it goes sometimes. Still waiting for a goal, but that doesn’t really matter to me.”
That team-first kind of attitude is rare for a young player, but just like with his raw talent, he is ahead of the game.