June 26th and 27th, 2015 were a great few days for the Calgary Flames. The weekend was filled with savvy drafting from the Flames brass that delighted the fan base, especially the analytically-minded folks at FN. But the weekend’s finest moment was when 22-year-old stud defenceman Dougie Hamilton was acquired from the Boston Bruins for a 1st round pick and two 2nds. The addition of Hamilton on the Flames blueline took them from a mediocre d-core with two elite pieces in Brodie and Giordano to one of the best d-cores in the league.
Hamilton, a product of the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs, was the 9th selection of the 2011 draft and the 2nd defenceman of the draft behind Adam Larsson of the New Jersey Devils. Hamilton was the result of the 2nd 1st rounder that the Bruins received from Toronto for Phil Kessel. The first being Tyler Seguin of course. In his draft year he registered 58 points in 67 games, pretty typical of a high defence draft pick. In his draft +1 and draft +2 years, however, he exploded offensively, putting up 72 points in 50 games in 2012 and 41 points in 32 games in 2013 before he was summoned to the NHL to play out the shortened lockout year. In Hamilton’s rookie year he was sheltered, played in the middle four and getting some of the easier minutes. However, from the 2013-14 season on he was mostly used in tandem with Zdeno Chara to form the team’s first pairing.
So who is Dougie Hamilton as a player? He’s an offensive dman that drives the play north. Over the course of his career, he’s averaged about 40 points for every 82 games for his first three years in the NHL, which would generally put him in the top 30 in dmen scoring. Hamilton isn’t a sniper from the point, having a pretty average defenceman shooting percentage of 6%, but he’s a big-time shot producer, averaging just over 2 shots a game, which ranks him in the top 15 among all dmen.
From a possession perspective, Hamilton has played on a possession monster of a Bruins team since his first season in the NHL, but on a possession monster, Hamilton is one of few positive relative possession players and is consistently improving in that field year-over-year (Relative Corsi: 2013 – 0.7; 2014 – 2.7; 2015 – 5.2). For a Flames team with plenty of offence but in dire need of some impact players that can drive the play as well, Hamilton appears to be a perfect fit. Not to mention he’s a right shot, incredibly young and enormous. All good things for this building Flames squad.
What can we expect from Dougie in his first season with the Flames?
From a pairing perspective, Hamilton will most certainly be playing in the top-4. Where exactly is still unknown. It’s easy to figure that he’ll assume a role on the 1st unit with Giordano as he’s a right shot and Gio’s a left. However, Gio and Brodie formed one of the best pairings in the entire NHL last year. How do you split that up? Will he play with Russell on the 2nd pairing? I’d say not likely as I can’t see the Flames using a 56 point scorer earning over $5M in Wideman on the 3rd pairing. So are they going to play two lefties together on the 1st pair and two righties together on the 2nd pair? That doesn’t make much sense either. Therefore, the only option I see is splitting up Gio and Brodie (as good as they are) and putting Hamilton on the 1st pairing. Hamilton has been playing shutdown 1st pairing minutes since he was 20 so he should slot in fine with Gio.
From a possession perspective, Hamilton leaves a possession powerhouse in Boston and comes to a subpar possession team in Calgary. Given Hamilton’s ability to be a relative possession player no matter the situation, I expect Hamilton to be up there with his defence counterparts Brodie and Giordano as the relative corsi kings (+3 to +5 relative corsi).
Points-wise, I would expect Hamilton to register 35-40 points. His ice-time may dwindle slightly (dropping from 21 minutes to 18 – 19 minutes a game) because he will be sharing ice-time with two already elite dmen which may hamper his point production slightly. However, Hamilton is only 22 years of age and his all-around game is improving every season, including his point production. Therefore, I think he’ll net out at around the same point he finished last year.
Another perspective where Hamilton will add to the Flames is his ability to get shots. The Flames were a bad possession team last year not because they bled shots against but because they didn’t get a lot of shots for. Hamilton’s averaged over 2 shots over the course of his career to date. That will give the Flames three options from the point (Gio, Wideman and Hamilton) that take over two shots a game.