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Bruins' Hamilton aims for strong first impression

by Matt Kalman
WILMINGTON, Mass. – He'd only been on the ice a couple of hours on the first day of his inaugural NHL training camp Friday when Dougie Hamilton showed he knows how to tell the Bruins fans what they want to hear.

Hamilton, the ninth pick in the 2011 Entry Draft, was talking about the Bruins rookies' two exhibition games coming up on Long Island next Monday and Tuesday. The lanky defenseman could be matched up against his teammate from Niagara of the Ontario Hockey League and New York Islanders' prospect Ryan Strome (the fifth pick in June).

Bruins' prospect Dougie Hamilton. (Getty Images)
In fact, Hamilton explained, he and Strome talked about the potential showdown as they departed the IceDogs' training camp a couple days ago.
"We were saying bye to everyone and we kind of said ‘see you next week.' I'm sure if he has his head down coming across the middle, I'll take him," the 18-year-old Hamilton said. "But I'm not too worried about that. It should be fun."
There's nothing supporters of the Bruins love more than a player willing to sacrifice the body, even if it means hitting a junior-team teammate in a rookie game. Hamilton obviously knows he's going to have to add some brute force to his game to fit into the Bruins' scheme in the near future. To that end, he's already begun to bulk up by adding six pounds to his 6-foot-5 frame since development camp in July. He has increased his weight to 194.
The start of rookie camp at the team's Ristuccia Arena practice facility comes one week prior to the official start of training camp. After a week of practices plus the two games against the Islanders, some of the 22 rookie participants will move on to main camp while other will be reassigned.
Although the defending Stanley Cup champions seemingly have a stocked roster with maybe just one forward position available, Hamilton's not planning to return to Niagara without putting his best foot forward for the Bruins' brass.
"I just want to come in and play my best," he said. "Obviously there's a lot of good D men. But I'm just going to coming in and I'm going to show my stuff and what I can do. Whatever they want to do with me, that's what I'll do."
Hamilton, 2011 second-round pick Alexander Khokhlachev and 2010 second-round picks Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner are some of the top prospects at this year's rookie camp. Each one wants to be the next Milan Lucic, Blake Wheeler or Tyler Seguin – someone that rises from the rookie ranks to earn a position among the veterans when the regular season opens. However, the 2011 roster seems more airtight than any of the Boston rosters in the previous three autumns.


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"I would tend to agree since the team won the Stanley Cup, but we don't know for sure," assistant general manager Jim Benning said. "We're just going to have to go through the process of this camp and then main camp and then, the one thing about Peter and Claude, if a player deserves to be on the team, then they find a way to get the player on the team. So with time that'll work itself out."

Hamilton did more than put on muscle since he left development camp in early July. He attended Hockey Canada's world junior championship evaluation camp as a candidate for the 2012 squad.

"There's a lot of good players in Canada. So I think there was a lot of guys there that were really good," said Hamilton, who will have as tough a time cracking Canada's blueline corps as he will Boston's lineup. "It's nice to kind of compare yourself to the top players your age and a year older and kind of know where you stand and be comfortable with that. I think you get the confidence from that and it's been good for me.

"I thought I did pretty well. So I'm pretty happy with it. I don't know, we'll see what happens come December."

December is farther down Hamilton's list of concerns right now as he prepares for the rest of rookie camp, and then potentially a respectable length of time at main camp. He knows that regardless of how his first NHL camp ends, he'll benefit from the experience.

"Just getting better," he explained about what he wants to improve on during camp. "Obviously when you're playing with older guys that are faster and stronger, you learn from that and you learn to make quicker plays and you just get more comfortable. And if I go back to Niagara, I'll gain a lot from that and it'll seem a lot easier."

Niagara starts the season ranked No. 2 in the BMO CHL MasterCard rankings. Hamilton figures with him, Strome and a lot of other talent, the IceDogs can be a special team this season. But first he wants to leave a special impression on the Bruins and Boston.
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