Defenseman Dougie Hamilton
, one of the top 2011 draft-eligible prospects vying for an opportunity to one day perform in the NHL, can recall vividly the games within the game when he was a young lad just learning the ropes.
Looking back, Hamilton admits it was just a way to kill time when he wasn't involved in the play.
"I'd skate around and jump over the blue lines and red lines," Hamilton told NHL.com. "I couldn't really remember since I was so young, but my mom actually got it on tape and we watched it a couple of years ago -- it was pretty funny. The game was at one end and I was in the opposite zone jumping over the blue line. I guess I was having fun out there."
That attitude hasn't changed, either, although Hamilton rarely has time to play hopscotch anymore as a budding 6-foot-4, 190-pound defenseman for the Niagara IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League.
"I had success at a young age and my dream was to go to the NHL," Hamilton said. "I was going to do whatever it took."
As is stands, Hamilton not only is proving to have smarts on the ice, but off it as well. He recently was named the 2009-10 winner of the Ivan Tennant Award as the OHL's top academic high school student, earning a 97-percent average as a junior at Governor Simcoe Secondary School in Saint Catharines, Ont. He was the third member of the IceDogs to win the award, following his brother, Freddie, who won the award in 2008-09.
"My family thinks of school as very important and my brother won the award last year, so it was one of my goals at the start of the year to win the award," Hamilton said. "I'm pretty proud. I try to keep up with (Freddie), he's a good role model for me and even decided to go to Niagara because he's there, and it's been a blast. We're good friends, and while there are a few arguments, there aren't very many."
Hamilton, who considers himself a complete defenseman capable of excelling at both ends, had a goal and 3 points as to help Canada win its third straight gold medal at the 2010 Ivan Hlinka
Memorial Tournament in August. Hamilton also played a part of the silver medal-winning Team Ontario at the 2010 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in January.
"One of my dreams when I was little was to represent Canada, just like my brother," Hamilton said. "When I got a chance to do it, it was nice. Wearing that Canadian logo was a dream."
In his first season with Niagara in 2009-10, Hamilton produced 3 goals, 13 assists and 36 penalty minutes in 64 games, earning OHL Second-Team All-Rookie honors and the team's Rookie of the Year award.
"He's a player who's coming on ... I remember how poised he was in his first season with Niagara last year," NHL Director of Central Scouting E.J. McGuire told NHL.com. "He possesses a long reach and he's a player I expect a lot of things from this season."
McGuire was one of several scouts, general managers and coaches who watched Hamilton at the 2010 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp Fueled By G Series in Toronto in August.
It's pretty apparent that as one of the top prospects for the June draft in St. Paul, Minn., Hamilton is hoping to make a lasting impression each time he steps on the ice.
"I'm looking forward to having fun and playing my game (in Niagara)," he said. "Sure there's a lot of pressure, but there's excitement, too. So long as I do the things I'm supposed to do, have fun and enjoy the moment."
Dougie and his brother, Freddie, a 2010 fifth-round pick (No. 129) of the San Jose Sharks
, are just two in a family chock-full of incredibly talented athletes.
"He's a player who's coming on ... I remember how poised he was in his first season with Niagara last year. He possesses a long reach and he's a player I expect a lot of things from this season."
-- E.J. McGuire
Hamilton's father, Doug, was an Olympic rower for Canada who earned a bronze medal in 1984 while also taking gold at the 1985 World Championships. His mother, Lynn, was a Canadian Olympic basketball standout, winning World Championship gold and bronze medals.
"Mom and dad have helped out a lot and know everything it takes to achieve dreams," Dougie said. "Me and my brother have really benefitted from their athletics and got good genes."
Hamilton, who always admired the recently-retired Scott Niedermayer
and is a current fan of Calgary Flames
blueliner Jay Bouwmeester
, actually had experience as a forward before being moved back to defense in his bantam year (ages 13-14).
"I've gotten taller over the last 2-3 years, so I can see myself in that Jay Bouwmeester
mold," he said. "Since I did play forward before, I learned both ends of the ice and what forwards have to do out there. I think it has given me better understanding of the position and those offensive instincts as a defender."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale