The ninth overall draft choice from 2011 has spent roughly half of those three years in the NHL. Inevitable growing pains aside, he has maintained a stable outlook, which is virtually a first among Boston first-rounders in the Peter Chiarelli era.
Between the 2007 and 2012 entry drafts, the Bruins have used six first-round picks so far in Chiarelli’s reign as general manager. The picture is still developing on goaltender Malcolm Subban (24th overall in 2012), and the team relinquished its first-round choice in 2013.
Before any of that—and before Hamilton—though, Chiarelli’s administration selected a slew of iffy forwards. Boston has moved on from three of its four first-rounders from between 2007 and 2010. The other is a pending free agent and would be a nominee for surprise of the summer if he re-signs with his career-long employer.
Chiarelli assumed office in July of 2006, meaning 2007 marked his first official draft. With the seventh overall selection that year, the Bruins tabbed center Zach Hamill, who has mustered merely 20 NHL appearances.
That was 20 more twirls with the Spoked-Bs than Joe Colborne attained before he went elsewhere. The No. 16 selection from 2008 signed out of the University of Denver after the 2009-10 season and promptly joined Providence.
Within 10 months, Chiarelli exported Colborne’s rights to Toronto as part of the February 2011 deal that brought in veteran blueliner Tomas Kaberle. Colborne went on to log 16 ventures with the Maple Leafs before moving to Calgary, where he finally spent a full NHL season in 2013-14.
Last summer, the Bruins dealt their third former first-round forward in as many years with Tyler Seguin’s export to Dallas. The second overall choice from 2010 had underachieved and allegedly logged too many unsavory off-ice exploits for the front office to stomach.
Among Boston’s top picks from 2007 through 2010, that just leaves Jordan Caron, for now.
The Bruins claimed Caron’s rights at No. 25 in 2009, before his final season in major junior. Upon entering the professional ranks, he has alternated between filling a depth role, conditioning in the AHL and watching games from the press box.
Through four professional seasons, Caron has charged up 123 regular-season NHL appearances with 12 goals and 16 assists. Much better than Hamill’s four-year achievement, but nothing to flatter oneself over.
This past spring marked seven of his nine career Stanley Cup playoff outings. Technically an upgrade from zero appearances in the 2013 tournament, but not as impressive given that the Bruins scratched him for the last four games of their run.
That output almost makes a head-scratcher out of the one-year deal that replaced Caron’s entry-level pact last summer. With his current contract, which paid him less than his first, expiring in July, it is easy to envision him donning a new crest this fall.
Hamilton, on the other hand, should be poised to defend his position as Zdeno Chara’s primary partner. He should be raring to lock away a handsome renewal as he embarks on the final campaign of his entry-level contract in 2014-15.
Hamilton is looking to build on a foundation comprised of a lockout-shortened rookie campaign and a somewhat understated sophomore surge. As Matt Kalman of CBS Boston opined in his postseason evaluation of the Bruins’ right defensemen:
Injuries slowed Hamilton for part of the first half of the season, and he made his share of rookie mistakes when given the playing time. However, in the playoffs he performed like a veteran and lessened the blow of Dennis Seidenberg’s injury absence by pairing with Zdeno Chara against top lines.
To that point, Hamilton missed 18 regular-season contests during his first full-length campaign in The Show. Under smoother and healthier circumstances, he could have 124 career twirls rather than 106.
For the better part of the 64 ventures he did muster in 2013-14, Hamilton variously paired with Seidenberg and Chara. In a cumulative 1,222 minutes and 35 seconds of action, he brooked a share of the blame for 26 opposing goals.
That would translate to a 1.28 goals-against average. While it might have been initially easy to credit that to the veteran half of the tandem, Hamilton’s effectiveness looked less fluky as the stakes heightened.
Working with Chara on even strength for both playoff rounds, Hamilton logged 229:18 of ice time over 12 games. In that span, the puck tuned the Boston mesh on a mere three occasions for an average of 0.78 setbacks per 60 minutes of play.
Casting light on that stinginess, CSNNE.com beat writer Joe Haggerty observed prior to Game 5 of the second round that Hamilton has “been advanced beyond his years with smart positioning and just enough physicality.”
That, for the record, is in reference to a player who just turned 21 this past Tuesday. This is regarding a rearguard who, at 212 pounds, most likely has yet to finish growing into his 6’5” frame.
All the while, Hamilton started hinting at his offensive potential during the postseason after a sound, but not spectacular, 25-point regular season.
To start his seven-point tournament, he dished a clean behind-the-net feed to Reilly Smith and then accepted a return pass in the center lane. From there, he cleared three lines to deposit a power-play conversion and break the ice en route to a 3-0 Game 3 triumph over Detroit.
Hamilton went on to produce at least one point in five consecutive contests. That consistency in one zone complemented his stability on the home front and served to kick ample ice chips over his introductory postseason in 2013.
Recall that the rookie Hamilton dressed for three out of seven first-round tilts with Toronto, followed by the first four of five second-round games against the Rangers. But starting with the Game 5 clincher of that series, Boston scratched him for the balance of the run, Pittsburgh and Chicago series included.
It is safe to assert that, had the Bruins bested Montreal this past May, that element of history would not have reprised itself. Hamilton was not about to give Caron company on the ninth floor of the TD Garden in the spring of 2014.
If and when Caron joins his fellow first-round letdowns in exiting New England, Hamilton will not be following suit in that regard either.
The more this trend holds up, the better Chiarelli’s chances of alleviating one of the few jutting minuses on his Boston transcript. Regardless of how they go on to perform elsewhere, high-end draft re-gifts can be the oil that fuels a GM’s legacy pimple.
The advanced impression Hamilton left in the latter phases of 2013-14 is a key step in stuffing those pores. He and Subban, who is coming off a decent rookie campaign in the AHL, have a chance to reset the precedent for whomever the Bruins select 25th overall this Friday.
Hamilton is already making headway on that front. He is adjusting and achieving on schedule, if not ahead of schedule, when other budding Bruins lagged.
Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via nhl.com