Since his retirement, the New Jersey Devils struggled to replace franchise defenseman Scott Stevens. His combination of strength, size and physical play comes around once in a generation.
Dougie Hamilton may be that defenseman.
Hamilton, ranked fourth overall by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau, enters Friday’s NHL Entry Draft as a top ten pick. He can jump within the top five, and could be the newest defenseman in the Devils organization.
Hamilton enjoyed a successful season with the Niagra IceDogs of the OHL. He led the team and finished fourth in the OHL in scoring among defenseman with 58 points. He also led the team in points during their first-round sweep of Brampton during the playoffs.
The 6-4 defenseman drew praise from scouts for his improved physical play.
“I watched him a lot, especially down through the playoffs and I saw a physical side of him that I didn’t see until partway through the second half of the year,” NHL Central Scouting’s Chris Edwards told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. “He was real physical, pinning guys and hitting hard and I was really glad to see that side of him. I think he really developed in that area.”
Hamilton also continued to flash some offensive skill as well. He scored 20 goals and recorded 38 assists, working well with teammate Ryan Strome on the powerplay.
“His puck-handling ability and decision making are just excellent,” Edwards told Gulitti.
New Jersey is desperate for a puck-moving defenseman after the departures of several two-way defenseman. Hamilton believes his “sneaky” offense can work well at the next level.
“I like to find little seams in the offensive zone,” he told Gulitti. “Especially in Niagara, just a couple of quick steps and you’re right in on net. If you can catch that winger off guard and get around him and then call for a pass, you’re right there in the slot for a real good opportunity. I think I look for that a lot and a lot of times on the power play, too.”
IceDogs head coach Marty Williamson believes Hamilton will be a special player.
“Especially at this level, you find guys that are awkward or don’t have a lot of explosion,” he told NHL.com. “You’re 6-foot-4, you don’t have a lot of explosion (but) the jump off his skates is phenomenal. When he sees those opportunities to jump into the rush or lead the rush, I really believe it’s untapped what he can do. He’s a very special defenseman in our league. He just had to understand the details and he’s going to be a very good pro. He’s mature beyond his years.”
Hamilton watched his brother, Freddie, get drafted by the San Jose Sharks last year. He knows the process, and understands that trying to guess on the team drafting him is futile. But he does know one thing – that he possesses the tools to become a great defenseman.
“I don’t think I have any weaknesses,” he told Gulitti. “I think I’m good offensively and good defensively. Obviously, you have to be a good skater, too. For my size, I think I’m a really good skater and I think I have all the tools to one day be a dominant guy.”