General manager Peter Chiarelli’s prophecy about Dougie Hamilton competing for a NHL job when he came to Boston this season not only was fulfilled, the 19-year-old exceeded that expectation by earning a regular spot in Boston’s top four and on the power play.
Hamilton has endured the usual ups and downs that come with being a teenage defenseman in the NHL for the first time.
But a combination of his own maturity in addition to the Bruins’ coaching and ability to protect him from difficult spots has made sure those valleys haven’t been so low he couldn’t climb out of them in the season’s first half.
Hamilton has responded well, even though the Bruins will need even more from him in the second half
Here’s a look at the midseason grades for Hamilton and the rest of the Bruins’ defensemen:
As opponents have adjusted, Hamilton has found it just a little more difficult to make a perfect first pass or get his shot through traffic on net. He’s also made a couple mistakes in his own end and taken some penalties that he’ll have to avoid going forward. Twelve points in 24 games makes up for some of his growing pains.
As with any Chara season, the few off nights stand out because of how scarce they are. He’s still putting up points, a positive rating and, most importantly, shutting down some of the game’s hottest guns. As long as he remembers to simplify his game against the better and faster teams the Bruins face, he’ll be in the Norris running again when the season ends.
Maybe possessing a “Johnny Rocket” shot doesn’t mean a guy should be expected to put up offensive numbers. Through 24 games, Boychuk has put up just three points. But his solid play in his own end and ability to limit his mistakes has allowed the Bruins to play Boychuk with Chara and keep Chara and Dennis Seidenberg split up. It’s tough to quantify Boychuk’s value for that and other reasons.
Tutoring and skating next to Hamilton has slowed Seidenberg down a bit. The veteran has still been solid most nights. And he might find himself boosting the power play down the stretch. As Hamilton learns, Seidenberg should be able to play more like he’s expected. Seidenberg still leads the Bruins in blocked shots by a healthy margin.
After a slow start, McQuaid has looked more like his physical self the last couple weeks. Maybe he needed to shake off some rust after his physical struggles during the lockout. He’s still the guy most likely to skate to a teammates’ defense and he’s cut back his offensive mistakes in recent games.
There’s no way to know how much Ference means to the Bruins in terms of leadership. That’s why the team can live with him being a bit more mistake-prone this season. Despite the miscues, he’s still a plus-4 on the year.
Aaron Johnson: A solid spare defenseman who should get a little more playing time down the stretch just to make he’s ready in a pinch in the playoffs.