Boston Bruins: Dougie Hamilton Is One of the NHL's Best Defensemen

Sean Tierney@@seantierney85Contributor IIINovember 8, 2014

Boston Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton is becoming one of the NHL's best.
Boston Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton is becoming one of the NHL's best.Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Boston Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton probably isn't the first name that comes to mind when fans discuss the best defensemen in the NHL.

Zdeno Chara? Yes, his name probably comes to mind.

P.K. Subban? His name likely pops up, too.

Could Dougie Hamilton soon find himself counted with Duncan Keith as one of the NHL's best defensemen?
Could Dougie Hamilton soon find himself counted with Duncan Keith as one of the NHL's best defensemen?Andre Ringuette/Getty Images

Duncan Keith? Well, he has the necessary hardware to be included in any discussion of the NHL's best on the blue line.

Drew Doughty, Shea Weber or Erik Karlsson? All three of these defensemen are almost certain to be included in the debate.

But with Chara sidelined with a ligament tear in his left knee for at least another month, Hamilton has stepped up to lead the Bruins' defensive corps. In the process, he has shown himself to be one of the NHL's best on the blue line.

Logging Loads of Ice Time

Dougie Hamilton logs heavy minutes on the blue line for the Boston Bruins.
Dougie Hamilton logs heavy minutes on the blue line for the Boston Bruins.Steve Babineau/Getty Images

Skating with his usual partner, Dennis Seidenberg, as the Bruins' top defensive pairing, Hamilton has logged 272:34 of five-on-five ice time. That ranks him second in the NHL through the Bruins' first 15 games.

As Nicholas Goss writes for NESN, Hamilton needed to step up in Chara's absence, and he's done that by playing in all situations for the Bruins and handling the minutes that would usually be entrusted to Chara. Altogether, Hamilton is averaging 22:51 of ice time.

Puck Possession

Becoming one of the NHL's best defensemen requires more than just logging minutes. To be considered among the likes of Keith, Subban and Weber, a defenseman must contribute positively to his team's ability to control the puck.

So far this season, Hamilton has been stellar in puck possession. His Corsi For percentage (CF%) is a striking 57.2 percent. That's good enough for 13th among all defensemen.

Doug Hamilton has an impressive CF% of 57.2 through the first 15 games of the season.
Doug Hamilton has an impressive CF% of 57.2 through the first 15 games of the season.Dave Reginek/Getty Images

That's not the best part.

The only defensemen with better puck possession stats who have logged more than 200 minutes of ice time are Ryan Ellis, Ryan Suter, Keith, Jakub Kindl, Matthias Ekholm and Brent Seabrook. 

Suter, Keith and Seabrook are among the game's best defensemen (no offense intended to Ellis, Kindl or Ekholm). To be counted with these blue-line stars puts Hamilton in the discussion of the NHL's elite.

Offensive Production

So, Hamilton logs heavy minutes and possesses the puck at an impressive rate. Is that enough to be considered elite?

Nope.

In his top 14 defensemen list at NHL.com, Arpon Basu writes:

The new world of advanced statistics has allowed certain defensemen who specialize in facing the opposing team's best players and making sure the puck spends as little time as possible in their own zone to get the recognition they deserve. ... These new metrics have also exposed what has long been known as the "stay-at-home" defenseman as simply being a player that spends an inordinate amount of time defending while the opposing team plays with the puck. ... The great majority of the 14 defensemen listed here excel at both ends of the ice, putting up offensive numbers while having the trust of their respective coaches to face top opposition and still find a way to control play.

Though Hamilton didn't make Basu's top 14, his recent offensive surge (along with ice time and great puck possession work) will land Hamilton in top defensemen rankings soon.

Hamilton has posted 10 points in 15 games, ranking him eighth among all defensemen in scoring. At this rate, Hamilton is on pace to register about 55 points. Last season, only Karlsson, Keith, Weber, and Victor Hedman scored at least that many points. If Hamilton keeps up this pace, he could easily find himself among the NHL's elite offensive defensemen.

In Conclusion

Could Dougie Hamilton be counted as one of the NHL's elite defensemen?
Could Dougie Hamilton be counted as one of the NHL's elite defensemen?Steve Babineau/Getty Images

Though the season is young, Hamilton has used the first 15 games to announce himself as an NHL rearguard on the rise. He is logging heavy minutes, possessing the puck at a fantastic rate and contributing elite offense from the blue line.

If Hamilton can maintain his torrid pace, he will find himself counted among the NHL's elite defensemen before the season is over.

What do you think, Bruins fans? Is Hamilton an elite defenseman or just a 21-year-old on a hot streak?

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