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Hamilton Smart Enough To Find What He Was Missing

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

Niagara IceDogs center Freddie Hamilton spent the 2009-10 season carving up opposing OHL goalies to the tune of 25 goals this season.

It's not a bad start for what eventually could be a second career -- medicine.

Hamilton, who made a huge jump in NHL Central Scouting's rankings from January's midterm release of the top North American skaters available for the 2010 Entry Draft to April's final ranking -- he exploded from No. 102 to No. 62 -- carries a high average in school and would eventually like to attend medical school.

"That's one of my interests -- medicine, the human body and helping people," Hamilton told "Maybe when I get closer to doing that, I'll figure that out."

For now, he'll work on operating on the ice, where he already is getting pretty good grades. He was second on his team in goals, and third with 55 points.

"Hockey intelligence," NHL Director of Central Scouting E.J. McGuire told "Freddie is a good, reliable faceoff guy; good, reliable penalty killer; and all-round smart hockey player."

The smarts that serve him so well, however, also at times have been a hindrance.

"I think sometimes he lets his mind race and he tries to break the game down to too fine a piece and complicates things for himself," Mike McCourt, who coached Niagara last season, told "He has to let his instincts take over at times. He wanted constant feedback and constant video, and I think that's all in pursuit of perfection and that's what you appreciate about him. But sometimes we encouraged him to go out and play and let his instincts take over. Sometimes he would over-think it and that's when he ran into a bit of a problem."

He solved that problem in the second half of the season. In his first 38 games, he had 13 goals and 28 points. In his final 26 games, however, he had 12 goals and 27 points.

The difference was the 6-foot-1, 187-pounder made a concerted effort to be more physical, which opened space for him in the offensive zone.

"He made a conscious effort to be a bit more assertive, try to add a little bit of a dimension of physicality to his game and that created more space for him offensively," McCourt said. "He asserted himself a bit more in the second half, made a conscious effort to be more physical. … He's a strong guy and we encouraged him to be a bit more assertive, be more proactive rather than reactive. When he added that dimension to his game, he created more space and created more room for himself. When he added that dimension to his game, it showed some results."

"Definitely midway though the year it kind of clicked in the way I was playing," Hamilton said. "I started to be more physical, started to control the game a little more. At that point I hit a hot streak, went a few games with a hat trick, a few goals, a few games like that. And that just carried on through the season and right into the Under-18s."

At the IIHF World Under-18 Championship, he tied for second on the team with 6 points, and had a plus-5 rating on a team that, if you remove the 11 goals they scored in a blowout of Belarus, was outscored 19-14 in five games.

"When kids get to our level, they need to be a little more focused away from the puck and learn the game on the defensive side," McCourt said. "Freddie was always a guy, he had those attributes when he got to us and it was something he took pride in. If you look at his international experience, when he's been involved on the Under-17 and Under-18 teams, he's always been give those (defensive) roles because coaches knew he'd respond in that manner."

Hamilton enjoys responding to any kind of challenge, whether it's on the ice or in the classroom. Education is a major part of his life, something that was instilled in him by his parents.

"They did when I was growing up, a lot of emphasis, just because in case I didn't become the good player I am today," Hamilton said. "Both my parents were athletes and after being athletes they went back to school and that's something I'll do. I'll play hockey as long as I can and just have these doors open for after I play hockey."

In the old-school belief structure of some hockey teams, being too smart can be a bit of an insult. Hamilton, however, is smart enough to know hockey must come first if he wants to reach his goal of playing in the NHL.

"A lot of (teams) find it a positive that I have such a high average and I'm a smart kid and I work hard in school," he said. "Some of them have been bringing up the fact that I am smart and let it hinder me in my hockey. But I tell them that's not true. I've been wanting to play hockey my whole life and that's my main goal."

Contact Adam Kimelman at

Author: Adam Kimelman | Staff Writer

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