Dougie Hamilton has been a consistent contributor on offense throughout his NHL career, but the Carolina Hurricanes defenseman is producing at a more impressive rate this season.
Hamilton has 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists) in 24 games. He leads NHL defensemen in goals and is tied with Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche for second in points behind John Carlson, who has 36 with the Washington Capitals.
"I think for me it's just more opportunity this year, opportunity that I've wanted for a while and got that at the start of the season," said Hamilton, who is playing on the top defense pairing with Jaccob Slavin and the first power-play unit, averaging an NHL career-high 23 minutes, 10 seconds of ice time per game.
Video: FLA@CAR: Hamilton beats Bobrovsky five-hole
"I'm just trying to do my best with it, try to keep going. It's been clicking right now and I'm playing with good players. When you're playing with good players, it makes it easier to be successful. So that's a big reason why too."
He's a big reason why the Hurricanes are 15-8-1 and have won six of their past seven, entering their game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, FS-CR, NHL.TV).
Hamilton, who had an NHL career-high 50 points (13 goals, 37 assists) with the Calgary Flames in 2016-17, is third on the Hurricanes in scoring behind forwards Andrei Svechnikov (27 points; 11 goals, 16 assists) and Teuvo Teravainen (26 points; seven goals, 19 assists). He's also second on the Hurricanes with 10 power-play points, one behind Teravainen, and is a Carolina-best plus-15.
"I'm trying to give him the puck as much as I can, really," Slavin said. "I mean, he's a special player offensively and loves to shoot the puck, so I just try to get it to him as much as possible. Get it in his hands and let him do his thing.
"Obviously everyone's always known the offensive side of his game. This year, the defensive side of his game has improved so much. That's probably just getting comfortable with the systems and everything, but he's also taken more responsibility and wanted to improve on it and that's evident. The defensive zone's a lot better this year, and it's been good playing with him."
Flames defenseman Mark Giordano, Hamilton's teammate from 2015-18, said he isn't surprised to see the impressive output.
"He has that ability to punch pucks through and get pucks through to the net," Giordano said. "I think his shot is really good. He's probably getting a bit more opportunity there this year being his second year there; [being] on the power play, the first unit, he's probably getting a lot more looks. His shot, his skill-set, it doesn't surprise me. He's always one of the top d-men I find at the end of the year in goal scoring. It looks like he's off to a great start."
Video: OTT@CAR: Hamilton roofs a wicked wrist shot
Along with increased playing time, Hamilton appears to be more comfortable in his second season in Carolina. After the Hurricanes acquired Hamilton, defenseman Adam Fox and forward Micheal Ferland from the Flames for defenseman Noah Hanifin and forward Elias Lindholm on June 23, 2018, his first season in Carolina took some adjusting.
"I think he just took his time to get used to what we were doing," coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "I think it happens when players come to new organizations. A lot of times, they sit back a little bit. Now we know what he's all about and he feels really comfortable in his skin with us. He's let loose and he's had some good results."
But Hamilton also struggled due to a broken right pinkie finger he sustained against the Vegas Golden Knights on Nov. 3, 2018. He played all 82 games and had 39 points (18 goals, 21 assists), but it was the first time he finished with fewer than 40 points since 2013-14, when he had 25 points in 64 games as a 20-year-old with the Boston Bruins.
"It was pretty much two months out of commission a little bit; doesn't help," Hamilton said. "Knock on wood, just don't think about that stuff. But yeah, it wasn't too fun."
New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who was Hamilton's teammate with the Bruins from 2012-15, said it was evident at a young age Hamilton would be special.
Video: CAR@CBJ: Hamilton joins rush, fires home wrist shot
"You could tell with those kinds of players: what they bring is something that not anybody else can bring, and he's one of them," Boychuk said. "He was still trying to be more defensive back then, because he had to. But now he's joining the rush, making plays, being himself. He's been doing a good job by implementing the defense that he did learn and using it on offense as well."
Hamilton has reached a comfort level with Carolina, and it shows with his play.
"He has a great shot, obviously," Giordano said. "He can skate with anyone, he's a big guy, he definitely has all the tools for sure. You know, when he's playing with a lot of confidence, he's right up there with anyone."
NHL.com deputy managing editor Brian Compton and independent correspondent Aaron Vickers contributed to this story