Raleigh, NC - The official word is in - Dougie Hamilton is a Boston Bruin.
Tonight, 19-year-old Hamilton will suit up in the spoked-B against the Hurricanes, and he will remain with the Bruins for the duration of the 2012-13 season. B's General Manager Peter Chiarelli officially announced the decision from the press box at Carolina's PNC Arena just before Boston hit the ice for warm-ups.
"I’ve informed Dougie Hamilton that he’ll be with us for the duration of the year," said Chiarelli in his opening statement. "He was pretty happy to hear it, I’d suggested to him over the last few days that there was a real good chance to try and put his mind at ease."
"He’ll be with us the remainder of the year."
Per NHL ruling, heading into the shortened 48-game season, underaged junior players could stay with their NHL teams for five games (without burning a year of their entry-level contracts) before clubs would have to make a decision whether to keep the youngsters or send them back down to their junior teams. In a regular 82-game schedule, the usual "junior rule" is set at 10 games.
In Hamilton's case, he could have been assigned to the Ontario Hockey League's Niagara IceDogs, the team that he played 32 games with during the work stoppage (and recorded 8-33=41 totals with a plus-24 rating).
"I think the decision is going to belong to upper management," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien had told media following morning skate today at PNC Arena. "From our end of it, he's been extremely good. Better and better every game as he gains confidence. He's done a lot of great things."
"We really like his composure, and his vision of the game, and how he moves the puck. He's been extremely good for us."
The B's GM made that decision - and added that Hamilton's comfort and confidence on the ice did not make the choice too difficult, and he doesn't expect the defenseman to play any different now that he knows he's a Bruin.
"He has a lot of poise and he plays a very mature game," said Chiarelli. "I’m sure inside he felt relieved, but based on how I’ve seen him play, it wouldn’t surprise me if his play doesn’t go one way or the other because he’s a real poised and mature player."
Hamilton played his first NHL game on January 19 at TD Garden, in a 3-1 win over the New York Rangers, before tallying his first career NHL assist - a helper on Brad Marchand's power-play goal - just two games later on January 23, in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Blueshirts. After that game, Coach Julien called Dougie's play "not good - outstanding."
"I don’t know what more to say about this guy but I think his teammates are seeing the Dougie Hamilton that everybody’s projecting," Coach Julien had said following the game.
The 6-foot-5, 199-pound defenseman then posted his the first multi-point game of his young career with two assists in a 4-2 win over the New York Islanders at TD Garden this past Saturday, earning himself First Star honors and a "Doug-ie, Doug-ie" chant from the Garden faithful.
"I think you guys are more surprised than I am," the B's 2011 ninth overall draft pick told the media scrum planted around him following the surreal night. "I think for me, I didn’t have expectations, I just wanted to come in and do my best. I have gotten a lot of opportunities, and I’m playing with a lot of great players. It makes it a lot easier on me."
"I guess after the fifth game it is [the Bruins] decision. I am trying not to think about it really - I am just trying to play my best and enjoy myself."
The fifth game has arrived and Hamilton won't have to "try" and not think about it - he won't have it on his mind at all. After signing an entry-level contract with the Bruins on December 8, 2011, and skating three and a half seasons with Niagara, Hamilton is ready to make the jump to the pros.
“It’s a dream come true for me,” Hamilton had said prior to his first NHL game. “Just my first game, I just want to enjoy it as much as I can, just have it as a memory that I’ll always look back on and remember."
Now, Hamilton will be able to put his first five games in the past - and only look forward, to remaining in Black & Gold.