With the NHL Draft quickly approaching, and
Photo courtesy of NHL.com.
Although Adam Larsson is getting most of the kudos from pro scouts as the most NHL-ready defenseman of the bunch, this draft year has quite a few defensive prospects that could make as big of an impact for their team one or two season from now. One of those is Dougie Hamilton, who has had a fantastic season in the OHL for the Niagara IceDogs, and has positioned himself to be what many believe to be a top-ten pick. For teams looking for a potential franchise blue-liner after Larsson is taken, Hamilton is a pretty safe bet to make.
Hamilton will be turning 18 this June, and he's already filling out his 6'4" frame. For his size, he is an incredibly smooth skater, drawing comparisons to former Panther Jay Bouwmeester, who is also one of the players Hamilton models himself after. However, unlike Bouwmeester, Hamilton is more physical and isn't afraid to step into the high-contact areas or motivate his teammates with a big hit. He has an extremely long reach and uses it to his potential, as he is very solid managing the puck under pressure in the corners and along the boards. His offensive play has blossomed during his second season in the OHL, as he posted 58 points in 67 games, and currently is over a point-per-game pace while logging major ice time as the IceDogs continue their playoff push. He logs time as a power play quarterback and seems to be maturing into that role as each season passes.
Along with all the skills that have made him a top prospect, Hamilton is a known fitness buff and keeps himself in incredible shape, often logging the most minutes of any player on the team each game. His coaches continue to play him in all situations and he has shown excellent mental toughness and ability to handle pressure. It's very likely Hamilton would get another season or two in the minors to continue to fill out with muscle and continue to develop his offensive game, but he is likely only two seasons away from being an NHL'er if his development keeps its current pace.
Again, Florida has a pretty deep pool of defensive prospects at the moment, so I wouldn't expect to see Hamilton in a Panthers sweater, as the need for top forward prospects is currently much greater. That being said, Hamilton is playing himself into the top seven or eight picks with his strong performance during the OHL playoffs, so expect to see him as the second defenseman taken in the draft after Larsson.