Season Recap & Evaluation:
Dougie Hamilton, drafted 9th overall in 2011 as the final installment of the Kessel trilogy, made the jump to the pros this year after spending a third year lighting up his fellow teenagers in the OHL in the 2011-12 season. Faced with man-sized manly men for competition and far less ice time, Hamilton couldn't be expected to continue his over PPG pace though he did contribute significantly to the Bruins' blueline scoring in his freshman outing. He logged just one point less than Dennis Seidenberg in fewer games for 3rd on the D corps - and impressively first in 5v5 and PP P/60. His 16 points in 42 games amounts to a 31 point pace in an 82 game season. Outside of Chara, that's the best a Boston defenseman has produced since the Dennis Wideman Explosion of 08/09. Hamilton's NHLe projection had pegged him for 35, so not half shabby there, kiddo.
Outside of his offensive game, there were ample examples of the rookie positional mistakes and blown coverage one might expect from a 19yr old accustomed to playing against slightly lesser players. In spite of the growing pains, he finished the year with a positive +/- ON to the tune of half a goal/60- which was a significant improvement over the midpoint of the season where he was dead-even. His +/-Rel did still wind up negative but jumped to -.21, and is still largely negative due only to the overwhelmingly positive performance of Zdeno Chara and Der Hammer swaying that relativity. Hamilton's possession figures also rose to an impressive 14.33 CorsiON over 42 games, good for best on team. The On figure, while partially attributable to overall team performance, is also the highest the Bruins' have seen from a regular D-man outside of Chara since, well, as far back as Behindthenet.ca goes. Lest you think this a reflection of the team rather than him, Hamilton held a CorsiRel of 5.2, indicating an importance to the team's possession just below that of Chara and miles ahead of the rest of the pack. Comparison of his partners indicates that while he and Seidenberg had a depressive impact on each other's possession - though still positive overall - Hamilton and Chara's pairing in a roughly equivalent sample elevated both.
Is he the guy you want to be the last man back on an odd man rush? Yeeeeeaaaah, probably not. Is he the guy you want clearing bodies from the front of the net? No, not just yet at least. At the same time, he's the player most capable of advancing the puck, the most efficient point producer, and a net positive in goal and shot prevention vs creation.
In the playoffs, Hamilton was again a leading offensive contributor, posting 1.22 P/60 to Chara's 1.31 and again leading all regular defensemen in PP production (barring Ference's 34 seconds ATOI wherein he contributed to a goal... aaaaaand a shorty against). He held a better +/- On than Bartkowski and a much better +/-Rel than Bart, Ference and even Seidenberg, yet one awful game against the Rangers and he never saw the ice again. Given the Bruins difficulties exiting the zone and hanging onto the puck against Chicago, Hamilton's team leading tools in this facet of the game would have been welcome even if it carried some inherent risk. Risk, that it must be noted, objectively paid off throughout Hamilton's first season more often than it cost the team.
A number of you have called for Hamilton to spend a year in Providence, which in an ideal world without the CHL's meddling, he would have done already. But should the above not provide sufficient perspective on his first year , consider if you will some other elite offensive defensemen and their rookie seasons and view Hamilton's performance in this context. Below is a list of this year's leading D scorers - I'm including only those whose careers began after 06-07 due to a dearth of possession and zone data.
Here we see that Hamilton at 19 performs comparably to 10 other of the league's top young offensive defenseman at the same stage of their careers, many of whom got their break later in their development. Only Shattenkirk and Pietrangelo outpace him in scoring and possession value relative to their team while Carlson joins the two as the only other player edging out Hamilton in scoring. He lies just under the median in possession and just above in goal differential.
Does Hamilton have defensive deficiencies? Naturally. But he's an extremely offensively gifted defenseman who finished a rookie year on a 31 point pace and ended with a positive ON goal differential and an exceedingly positive shot differential. Overall, he successfully moves the puck from our zone and doesn't give up more than he gives. That he has significant work to be done on his own-zone game docks him a letter grade, but given that he had a breakout year in line with that of some of the league's rising stars, I can't give him any less than: