Freddie Hamilton is uniquely situated on the Flames. He has the same name his brother does, but not his title of core player, nor his talent; he’s not about to take command any time soon. F.Ham is what he is: a decent replacement-level player who likely is given a little more thought than someone else of similar ability would be because, well, his brother is Dougie Hamilton.
But the evidence does not suggest he’s in the NHL solely because of his familial relationship to his teammate. The older Hamilton is a capable hockey player in his own right, even if, at 25 years of age, this was the first full season he’d spent in the NHL – one in which he played just 26 games, at that. But so long as he was available to play, that was enough.
2016-17 season summary
Hamilton, who rose up from being a fifth round pick, has spent most of his professional hockey-playing career in the AHL, with occasional call-ups to the NHL. That was how his first season with the Flames, back in 2015-16, went, too; this season, though, he made the team out of camp.
There are a couple of reasons for that. For one thing, teams need extra forwards, and Hamilton has the cheapest cap hit out of every possible option available: his cost justified his presence. More importantly, though, he impressed in preseason, and genuinely did make the big club out of merit alone. No grand stage was needed to prove he was worth it: he simply showed up and performed well, shouldering every burden and disadvantage en route to earning his spot.
But if we’re being honest with ourselves, he could have been played more often, and the team may very well have been better off. Hamilton scored two goals over his 26 games, all while averaging a mere 9:46 in ice time; Garnet Hathaway was the only other player who played less per game. The 30 shots Hamilton threw on net, though, were more than Hathaway took, as well as more than the slew of bottom pairing defencemen who averaged more ice time; he certainly made the most of his available opportunities to contribute.
It’s difficult to really analyze Hamilton’s performance because of how little he played. There isn’t really anything to compare him to his season previous. We know he got a lot of defensive zone starts against relatively easy competition; that said, his 47.18% 5v5 CF was better than every single depth player not named Matt Stajan or Alex Chiasson. Perhaps if he had played more it would have been lower, but he was nearly 3% over Hathaway in similar amounts of playing time, about .7% above Lance Bouma in a little under half his playing time, and about 2.5% above Troy Brouwer in a little over a quarter of his playing time.
This is not to say Hamilton deserves big minutes, or even regular ones: just that he’s a bit of a diamond in the rough, and probably proof the Flames could be a lot smarter about the depth they do choose to pay and send out on the ice.
What comes next?
Will Hamilton be freed? He won’t be counted on to lead, nor would he be on his own, but it’s difficult to ascertain just what will happen with him.
At minimum, he’ll probably stay on the Flames’ roster as an extra forward; the fact that he’s capable of rising up to the challenge combined with his cheap cap hit is reason enough to keep him around, even without any off-ice stuff. He’s certainly not helpless, and his play should be satisfying overall.
But will he get a regular shift? That’s less likely. In case of injuries, potentially: he’s a right-shooting centre, which certainly helps some roster problems. But even if he can fully usurp the positions of overpriced depth ahead of him, that doesn’t mean he should be a regular: not when there are other players out there who are likely better yet, who can probably help the Flames much more, even if still in just a depth role, by playing just as reliably but chipping in a little more on the offensive side of things.
Hamilton played a role this past season. It was a small, understated role, but a necessary one all the same. With a year remaining on his contract, it’ll probably be the same one next season. After that? It’ll be a much harder call.
|#1 – Brian Elliott||#5 – Mark Giordano|
|#6 – Dennis Wideman||#7 – T.J. Brodie|
|#10 – Kris Versteeg||#11 – Mikael Backlund|
|#13 – Johnny Gaudreau||#17 – Lance Bouma|
|#18 – Matt Stajan||#19 – Matthew Tkachuk|
|#23 – Sean Monahan|