Hamilton has room to be more physical

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Once Dougie Hamilton learns to harness the fire and passion that come with playing for the Boston Bruins, and once his size and strength catch up with his natural ability, he's going to be a dangerous player in the NHL.

He's quiet. He simply does his job and does it well for a 20-year-old defenseman in the league. With a 6-foot-5, 212-pound frame, he has the size to be a physical force on the ice.

There was a time when most young players entering the league would quickly drop their gloves and prove they were more than willing to stand toe-to-toe and exchange blows. In 79 career games at the NHL level, Hamilton has yet to record a fighting major. He's been close a few times, but he hasn't had to.

"I don't feel obligated to do it at all," Hamilton said. "Now, it's more about toughness, hitting and taking hits. It's not part of my game, so I don't feel obligated to do it just because I'm [in the NHL] now."

After Thursday's 4-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, Bruins players lamented their lack of emotion in the game. Even when the likes of Jarome Iginla, Shawn Thornton and Kevan Miller tried to get something started, the Montreal players were smart enough to back off and not oblige the invitation to fight.

At some point, Hamilton will find himself in a situation and he'll need to drop the gloves, and, when that time comes, he said he'll be ready. But it's not something he's focusing on or looking for.

"In junior, I only had two in 3½ years," he said. "It's not part of my game, so I don't think I need to do it."

Thornton has worked with teammates in the past to help hone their skills in that area, but Hamilton doesn't see the need for a tutor.

"I don't want to get beat up at practice," Hamilton said with a laugh.

Hamilton's skill set is built on his ability to move the puck and create offensive chances for the Bruins. During his junior career with the Niagara Ice Dogs, he dominated. The game was easy for him, but he was playing against boys. Now, he's going up against men.

In the one calendar year he's been in the NHL, Hamilton has made a solid transition to the pro game.

"He's got the size, and I think he's doing OK. He's also a guy that, even though he is big, he's still filling into his body and he's trying to get stronger every year," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "He's stronger this year than he was last year, so it's just a matter of time. The stronger you get, the more confident you get, so in that area he's improving at the rate a young player, like him, would be."

Even though it's not part of his repertoire, it would be a step forward in his development to see Hamilton take advantage of his size and strength and unleash it on the opponent. The former first-rounder (ninth overall in the 2011 draft) will continue to hone his skills. The organization is impressed with his development and contributions.

"Doug's still young and trying to understand the game at the NHL level, and it's a very difficult position to develop at. It takes a little longer for young defensemen to develop," team president Cam Neely said. "Doug realizes his strengths and weaknesses, and if he improves on both of them, he's going to be a great defenseman in this league.

"There are areas, obviously, he's got more of an offensive bent to his game, and that's his thought process, but I know our coaching staff is working with him on the defensive side of the game. When he improves in that area -- and continues to improve on the offensive side -- he's got the size, he's got the natural ability to have a long and successful career."

As Hamilton continues to develop and mature, he's going to get stronger. That strength will help him gain confidence in the corners and in front of the net.

"Any time you have a guy with that size -- and can get stronger -- it's going to be beneficial for him," Neely said.

Hamilton has missed a total of 14 games this season due to injury. He missed 10 with a knee injury and four with a concussion. He's played four games since returning to the lineup from the concussion.

"I thought his best game was probably the first game [after the concussion]. The last two games he's been OK, and that's being honest, and OK doesn't mean bad, either," Julien said. "I just know he's a great player. He's a young player, and it's always about us pushing him to be the best player he can be. To me, he really impressed me in that first game he came back, and the last two games there's certain elements in his game we feel he can be better at. But he still brings that great playmaking ability, he moves the puck up the ice well, he's been good for us on the power play. For him, the issues right now are any issues that a young defenseman has in this league, and we're going to keep working with him on those."

Hamilton is only going to get better. Once he adds some bite to his game, he could become one of the top blueliners in the league.