| |Curtis Hamilton scored 4 goals and 11 points in 10 post-season games with Saskatoon this spring (Photo by Getty Images).
It's amazing what can be accomplished in a year.
For 19-year-old Curtis Hamilton
, a couple months will do. We last spoke to the Kelowna, BC native in early March when the Saskatoon Blades took on the Edmonton Oil Kings at Rexall Place. Back then, he was looking to complete his fourth WHL season with a lengthy post-season run in Saskatoon.
Having amassed 26 goals and 82 points in only 62 regular season games with the Blades, Hamilton helped propel Saskatoon to a second-place ranking in the WHL's Eastern Conference standings.
Despite scoring an additional 11 points in 10 post-season matches, his Blades were upset in the second round, prematurely ending what appeared to be a promising spring campaign.
But as the door to Saskatoon's post-season dreams closed, a window of opportunity opened for the 6'2" 206 pound winger in Oklahoma City. On Apr. 18, Hamilton signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Oilers. One day later, he put pen to paper once again, this time signing an Amateur Tryout Agreement with the Barons.
"A whirlwind is probably the best way to describe it," Hamilton chuckled. "Getting picked by the Oilers, then leading up to camp, and I had an awesome season in Saskatoon. Getting the chance to play for Canada at the World Juniors was awesome."
It was there in Buffalo, New York where many Oilers fans were introduced to Edmonton's second round selection, 48th overall in 2010. Hamilton's representation at the international tournament was underlined with four goals in seven games en route to Canada's silver-medal stake.
It was a mid-season opportunity that helped the dynamic forward prepare for an extended run, which fell short after being dispatched by the Kootenay Ice in a clean, four-game sweep.
"[The season] ended a little shorter than we all expected in Saskatoon, but I get to continue playing hockey; coming down here and playing with a bunch of awesome guys."
Fellow WHL standouts Brandon Davidson
and Martin Marincin
had previously signed ATOs with the Barons, so Hamilton's experience in Oklahoma City has been shared with others in a similar position.
"Martin (Marincin) I know a little bit and I know Brandon (Davidson) pretty well since we played against each other quite a bit," he explained. "All the guys down here treat me like a brother and with open arms, even though they're a little older than me. They're all awesome guys and they treat us with respect. That's awesome."
Even with the succinct recap of his season's resume, 2010-11 has been a long-winded campaign. New opportunity, however, seems to have provided the chance to fast track his personal development.
"You've got to make sure your passes are on," Hamilton said of the fast-paced AHL practice. "You've got to make sure you're game-ready in case you get the call and get thrown in."
"Everything happens a lot quicker and there's a lot more hitting. It's playoff hockey. It's cool to be a part of."
The learning experience continues to provide new opportunity for the young winger. Without a break in his continuous and rigorous regimen, Hamilton looks to establish his name next September at Oilers training camp.
For now, his goal is simple.
"Looking forward to camp next year, hopefully starting on a good foot there and making a good impression with the Oilers' brass," Hamilton said. "If I come down here, that would be awesome too. If I stick with the Oilers or am back in junior, we'll see. It just depends on the summer I have."
With such an impressive calendar year to look back on, his motivation and desire to succeed will continue to lead Hamilton to excellence as his young career rolls along.
"I think I can only go up."