BOSTON (CBS) – The sands of the hour glass on Dougie Hamilton’s opportunity to impress the Bruins’ brass and earn a lengthy stint with the club are dropping.
And they’re going to slide to the bottom of that timepiece even faster with the NHL’s condensed schedule and Boston having just five games played to decide whether it’s worth burning a full year of the defenseman’s entry-level contract on the 48-game sprint that continued Monday with a 2-1 shootout win by the Bruins over Winnipeg at TD Garden.
So far, Hamilton says he’s not watching the calendar to keep track of how much more time he has to live up to his talents as a first-round pick in 2011 and potentially spend the entire 2013 campaign in the Hub. After he’s played six games, Hamilton can still go back to his junior club, but the Bruins would lose that year on the 19-year-old’s contract.
Just two games into Hamilton’s NHL career, head coach Claude Julien showed how much faith he has in the rookie. With Dennis Seidenberg out with a lower-body injury, Julien lifted Hamilton from Boston’s second pair to its top pair alongside Zdeno Chara. The Twin Towers of Boston’s back end helped keep Winnipeg offensive stars Olli Jokinen and Evander Kane off the score sheet.
Julien, who also said he’s not watching the clock on Hamilton’s contract, then sang Hamilton’s praises after the win.
“I think he was put in a tougher position today then he was in his first game with Seidenberg out. … He had a bigger role to play and I noticed, even in the second half, he was making even better plays with the puck than he had before,” the coach said. “I think that’s that confidence coming around, and experience and he’s beginning to feel his way through these games. And that’s pretty impressive for a young player.”
It wasn’t just Hamilton’s defensive play that shined against the Jets. He also got active on the offensive side – showing trust that his teammates would back him up and confidence that he could contribute in multiple ways.
The 48-game season figured to be a crash course for Hamilton and any rookie entering the NHL this season. With Seidenberg’s injury, Hamilton was suddenly put of an accelerated program.
After passing this stiffer test, there’s no telling what’s up next on Hamilton’s road to a regular spot in the lineup. But we know that so far he hasn’t backed down from a challenge and has shown he’s adept at conquering obstacles.
“I didn’t really come in with expectations,” Hamilton said. “So everything I’m getting I’m really excited about. I just want to make the most of the opportunity and do my best and that’s all I can do.”
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes coverage to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on twitter @TheBruinsBlog.