Once you’ve seen how fulfilling success can be, it makes the desire to push through and injury that much stronger.
“It’s just something you’ve got to play with, deal with and try not to think about. (My knees) feel close to 100%,” Curtis Hamilton said.
Hamilton, 22, is entering his fourth year in the Oilers system and is coming off his most productive season with the Oklahoma City Barons. He posted 16 points in 43 games, compared to nine points in the previous season while playing 18 more games.
In July, Hamilton was awarded a one-year contract extension. The extension gives Hamilton some time to see how his body, in particular his knees, will hold up through the 2014-15 season.
“I’ve got two knee braces now and I think there’s a couple of other guys that have them to.”
Injury has plagued this Oilers prospect for years. In the 2009-10 WHL season, Hamilton appeared in just 26 games for the Saskatoon Blades due to a broken collarbone. More recently, his knees have been the hindrance.
|Photo courtesy: Edmonton Oilers |
In 2012, he suffered a season-ending injury during his sophomore year in the American Hockey League, which required surgery. Then, Hamilton was hit with a minor set back midway through 2013-14 campaign. This adversity has made Hamilton an expert at rehabilitation.
“I think I’ve done it enough times now that I’m used to it, coming back and everything that it takes. I’m a little bit more comfortable with it. It’s not good to be comfortable with something like that, but hopefully that’s behind me now.”
Talk about a skill they don’t teach you in school. The perseverance and potential are keeping Hamilton on the Oilers radar, and he’s optimistic he’s headed for greener pastures.
“No. I’m fine,” Hamilton said. When asked about residual pain.
The only painful thing for the 6’2” forward, who’s still waiting on his first NHL call-up, would be if he were unable to play professional hockey any longer. It’s a dream that was fostered at a very young age.
“When I was growing up I would go to every Rockets game. I was a huge fan and still am.”
That’s because Hamilton’s father, Bruce, owns the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL (formerly of Tacoma).
“It was something different. Not a lot of people get to experience that. It’s not just my dad that was there. I have an aunt and uncle that work for the team. Growing up in the front office, everyone was usually around so it was a pretty cool experience.”
At just 12-years-old, the left-winger was a part of a Memorial Cup run he will never forget.
“Seeing him (Father) win it, seeing the joy on his face and just seeing what it takes to do it, I was very proud of him and I still am to this day.”
The 2004 Memorial Cup Championship isn’t the only rare hockey honour that Hamilton’s been privy to. In 2011, he got to don the most coveted sweater north of the boarder.
“Growing up, every kid in Canada wants to play World Juniors. Thankfully, I got that chance. It’s another thing I’ll never forget and I’m very proud to have put on that jersey.”
Hamilton scored four goals in the tournament (second only to Brayden Schenn, his teammate in Saskatoon) and Canada went on to win Silver, following a 5-3 loss to Russia.
|Photo courtesy: Edmonton Oilers |
When talking about a rare bittersweet point of his career, the 2010-11 WHL season and not competing for the Memorial Cup, Hamilton is still able to put things into perspective.
“We fell a little short that year, but I still remain close with a lot of guys on that team. That’s a positive you can take from something like that.”
Hamilton was able to catch up with a different set of teammates, those from the Barons, when he reported to camp on Thursday.
“It’s nice to see all the guys again and just nice to be in the room hanging out with everyone.”
The locker room bonding couldn’t last forever, as two of three teams scrimmaged on Saturday. Hamilton was a member of Team White, who lost 3-2 at the hands of theTaylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle led Team Blue. Hamilton scored a goal late in the game.
Training camp resumes Tuesday and Hamilton will hope to strap up again and make an impression on the powers that be. Putting past adversity aside, he has an opportunity to make the jump to the NHL. Hamilton is hoping to prove that this year he's ready to do just that.