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Flames' Hamilton starting to find way as Bruins visit

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- A stunning trade to the Calgary Flames hours before the 2015 NHL Draft quickly sent expectations sky high for defenceman Dougie Hamilton.

His early-season struggles to adapt to a new system, new teammates, and a new city have tempered them equally as fast.

But Hamilton is trying to improve upon his slow start.

"It's a little bit frustrating," Hamilton said. "It's not the start I wanted and maybe it's more of an adjustment than I thought it would be. With how we're doing as a team, it's frustrating as well.

"You always put pressure on yourself to do your best and every year you want to get better. I thought I had a good summer of training. Coming in I wanted to have a good start. I'm playing how I want to now, but definitely a tougher start."

Through his first 25 games with Calgary, the 22-year-old has three goals and three assists, off his pace last season with the Boston Bruins when he set new career-highs in goals (10), assists (32) and points (42) in 72 games. The Flames host the Bruins on Friday at Scotiabank Saddledome (9 p.m. ET; NESN, SNF).

Hamilton's first nine games with the Flames yielded one goal and a minus-11 rating.

The results, the slowest statistical start in Hamilton's four-year career, fell far short of the excitement created by the trade and signing of a six-year contract reportedly worth $34.5 million four days later.

"He's a young player," said Flames general manager Brad Treliving, who made the draft day trade to acquire Hamilton's rights from Boston for Calgary's first-round pick (No. 15) and two second-round picks (Nos. 45 and 52) in the 2015 draft.

"We said it at the time of getting him. There was a lot of talk and excitement in him coming here. It's still a young player, he's still finding himself in the League, and his game is still growing. We look at him not in terms of 10 or 20 games, but we think that he'll be an important player of this team for a long time."

In the short term, Hamilton has been a work in progress.

"We forget that, we go back to the trade and it was the blockbuster trade of the draft," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "Then he comes here and all of this, in the end, he's only 22 years old. We forget this because of how big the trade was. Suddenly he's supposed to carry the team and build a new arena. He's only 22 years old. We have to be patient with him and let him grow in his new organization.

"We're helping him and he's been great."

Hamilton is plus-5 in the past 16 games. Fourteen times he's finished as an even or plus-player in a game, and two of his three goals and five of his six points have come in the same span.

He's feeling more settled, offensively and defensively, on and off the ice.

"It's definitely an adjustment," said Hamilton, who spent three seasons and 197 regular-season and Stanley Cup Playoff games with the Bruins. "On ice and off ice, I'm starting to get more comfortable, getting used to the system and building chemistry on the ice and getting used to the city off of the ice."

The Flames believe it's starting to show.

According to Treliving, Hamilton's most recent game, in which he scored the game-tying goal with 2:18 remaining in the third period in an eventual 4-3 shootout win against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday, was his best to date.

"Like a lot of our team, there has been some inconsistency. Some good, some not so good," he said. "I think it's safe to say the game the other night was his best as a Calgary Flame. Not just that he scored a goal, his defensive play was good, he moved the puck, he was involved. Hopefully we can build on that.

"Again, still a young player trying to build confidence in his game and I've liked his game as of late."

Hamilton's upward trend comes as he prepares to play opposite former teammates for the first time. It's not necessarily a spot he expected to be in.

"I think ever since I got drafted, it was my vision and dream to be a Bruin for life," said Hamilton, who was selected with the ninth pick by the Bruins in the 2011 draft. "I loved being in Boston and playing in the Garden and wearing that jersey. It was weird when it happens and it changes so quick. I still have a lot of pictures of myself in a Bruins jersey. I enjoy those memories and moments.

"Things change quick. There's not really much more to say. It didn't work out.

"I think it is what it is. That's what happened, so you can't think differently. You can't think about what happened in the past and you've got to move on. I'm enjoying being a Calgary Flame."

Author: Aaron Vickers | NHL.com Correspondent

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