At this time last season, OIlers prospect Curtis Hamilton
was coming off a difficult 2009-10 campaign which was limited to only 26 games due to a shoulder injury. He only had seven goals and 16 points during the shortened season.
However, things started looking up for the 19-year-old winger after the Oilers took a chance on him in the second round, selecting him 48th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. His first stop was Oilers Development Camp a week later.
"Last year coming in, I was a baby-faced rookie here. I know a lot more guys this year and I know how things work. It's a lot easier this year and it's been a lot of fun," Hamilton said.
From there, he went on to Canada's World Junior Development Camp and thoughts of a wonky shoulder were soon far behind him.
"There's a lot of rehab that went into that. The physical part of it was tough but mentally just getting back into playing as much hockey as I did last year was different I guess but in the long run it's a good thing and I'm excited for next year."
Completely recovered, Hamilton had an oustanding 2010-11 season. He scored 26 goals and added 82 points in 62 games with an impressive +48 rating. He also scored four goals -- many of them timely -- in seven games for Canada at the World Juniors.
"It was a busy season with our team in Saskatoon having a great year and then getting to play with Canada at the World Juniors. It was a lot of fun. It was a season to remember for sure."
Speaking about the resiliency to bounce back from a tough injury-filled season, Hamilton spoke of the family support lines he's had being raised in a hockey family. Curtis Hamilton
's father Bruce Hamilton is the GM of the WHL's Kelowna Rockets.
"My family's been a big part of my development. My parents, my dad's been a big part of it -- general manager in Kelowna. Whatever's I've needed in terms of resources or what not he's helped me. I owe him everything I've gotten to this point."
Hamilton had an opportunity to see what the next level had to offer at the end of the season. Once his Saskatoon Blades squad was eliminated from the playoffs, he joined the Oklahoma City Barons for their postseason run.
"It was good," Hamilton said of the experience in OKC. "It was a bit of a step up from junior, obviously. Playoffs, wherever you are, it's pretty intense. I didn't get into any games but practices were really intense and everyone there is bigger and stronger.
"It's a lot tougher, but that's where you've got to get to."
With an eye on getting to that level -- or beyond -- this fall, Hamilton has been vigorously training to ensure he's in top shape come September.
"I've been in the gym, training, trying to get stronger all-around. Upper-body strength is something I need to work on. Skating, too," he began. "We don't skate a whole lot right now. Most hockey players don't this early in the summer but just getting a chance to come out here and skate every day, working on skating skills is important."
Hamilton knows succeeding at the pro level won't be a cakewalk, but with all the adversity he's faced in his career to this point, he's ready for the challenges that await.
"Getting ready for the pro game, it's a lot faster and the puck moves a lot quicker so you have to be ready for that kind of stuff, whether it's just getting overall stronger or being in the gym -- just your skating, shooting or passing. It's things like that you have to improve on if you want to stick at the next level."