Curtis Hamilton reminds me of the Montreal Canadiens of my youth. While my favorite team (Boston Bruins) would draft guys like Mike Bloom and Al Secord (basically Lucic types), the Habs would select a bunch of “two-way” forwards and a “checker” or two. Curtis Hamilton is a “Hab-type” prospect right from the Del Wilson playbook.
STU MACGREGOR: “An extremely smart player, a great two way player. Strong, has good size, works hard along the boards. Very strong on the puck, has good vision, very good penalty killer. A guy who plays hard and smart.”
SMARMY BOSS: Hamilton played on the Blades top six for the most part. He’s not a coke machine–he can score and he was a touted first rounder. Got injured in the WHL vs Russia game and missed the top prospects game due to that injury. Recovered from a second break just in time for the playoffs and played really well without much in the way of rust. A blatant hit from behind in the Brandon series seperated his shoulder and put an end to a disappointing injury filled season.
CENTRAL SCOUTING: “He has very good upside with all the tools. He’s not an aggressive player by penalty minutes, but he finishes his checks in all areas and is very effective. Good size and skates very well, also. He’s strong on both the penalty kill and the power play. You see him and just like what he brings to the table.”
REDLINE REPORT: “If they still had the opt-in rule, his agent might tell him to wait until next year. Two broken collarbones adds some uncertainty. I was hoping he’d answer the questions this year I had about his somewhat soft style of play, but that didn’t really happen this year. Has good hockey sense and some hands, but I can’t decide if this guy could be a steal outside of the top 100 picks or too much of a risk. I think I’d just let some team with extra 3rd/4th round picks grab him.”
BRUINS DRAFT WATCH: “Curtis Hamilton of the Saskatoon Blades suffered a nightmare, injury-plagued season with two collarbone breaks, the second of which ended his season just after the new year. Considered a wide-bodied winger with solid skills (OK skater, good shot, has a nose for the net) if not a high-end package of hockey tools, Hamilton is one of those guys who will drop because he simply didn’t play enough in his draft season, but could end up being much better than a lot of the players who will be picked before him. If he’s there early in the fourth round when Boston’s pick (via Carolina in the Aaron Ward trade) comes around he’d be hard to pass up, because he fits the mold of what the B’s are trying to do in terms of adding size, skill and scoring to the wings. He scored 20 goals in 58 games in 08-09, but only seven tallies in 26 contests this year, so Hamilton does not come without risk, and is why he will fall on draft day.”
ISS: “Well rounded player who can provide offense and raise the intensity level when needed. Hamilton has a very good technical package and understands the game very well. A strong and aggressive forechecker who can really fire the puck, Hamilton struggled with some bad luck and injuries this year which really affected his production. Hamilton is honest and hard working with the ability to play in all situations and against all types of players. He is hard on the puck and rarely backs down from battles for pucks or space and isn’t afraid to hold his ground after the whistle. Hamilton is very good at drawing defenders and then getting the puck to the net and then driving hard to the net on his own for rebounds or to create space for his teammates.”
Hamilton followed up his injury plagued draft season with an outstanding year in the WHL. Here’s the breakdown by discipline:
Those numbers tell us Hamilton played a lot in all three areas. After a disappointing playoff run with the Saskatoon Blades (who’ve never won the WHL championship but have been to the finals several times), Hamilton signed a contract with the Edmonton Oilers and prepared to start his professional career in OKC.
It’s been a slow progression for Hamilton so far in the American Hockey League. He’s played in 17 of the club’s first 23 games and has not (until recently) been a regular option to play with the top end veteran forwards. Hamilton’s boxcars (1-5-6 +1) have been helped by increased playing time after the Teemu Hartikainen injury (1-2-3 +2 in his last 5 games).
He has played some on the PP (3 PP assists) so seems to be getting some results when the opportunity arises. Hamilton has been playing most often recently with Gilbert Brule and Josh Green and has seen action with AHL veteran Ryan Keller and Mark Arcobello. If Hamilton can get quality playing time at EVs and on the PP with that group while Hartikainen and Omark are out, the numbers will come.
OKC Barons PBP man Jim Byers told me in mid-November that Hamilton had been in and out of the lineup at times and was “waiting his turn” with few special teams options. Byers said Hamilton was “feeling his way” into the lineup through mid-November. Since that time, Hamilton has played 7 games and is 1-2-3 +3. What’s more, 11 of his 19 shots on the season have come during that time. Although we don’t really know the TOI totals, all indications are that Hamilton is getting more opportunities since the injuries.
Curtis Hamilton is a quality prospect. The Oilers are producing some very good talent and have worked hard at procuring solid talent for the AHL team over the last couple of seasons. The men in his way are veterans like Josh Green, Mark Arcobello, Gilbert Brule and Ryan Keller. Phil Cornet, new hire Tristan Grant and fellow 2010 draftee Tyler Pitlick are also in the mix and of course injured (Hartikainen, Omark) players and callups (O’Marra) are part of the equation.
As for the top 20, Hamilton’s slide shouldn’t be viewed as a negative. The gap between Hartikainen at #4 and the player at #11 isn’t wide, with most of the group interchangeable. Hamilton has done nothing to suggest he is not a quality prospect, and the things we worried about with this player (injuries) have not been a factor since he was drafted 18 months ago.