New Jersey Devils defenseman Dougie Hamilton just wants to be wanted

NEWARK, N.J. -- Something was moving in the shadows behind Andreas Johnsson.

The New Jersey Devils forward was giving a postgame interview after their recent win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. It soon became clear he wasn't alone. As he talked remotely to studio host Erika Wachter, the contours of a face started to become visible over his right shoulder, creeping on him like a demon in a horror movie. But as the face moved further into the light, it revealed the not-very-demonic-at-all visage of teammate Dougie Hamilton.

The defenseman stared into the camera, unblinkingly. He slowly moved his head behind Johnsson and then over his left shoulder and did the same, drawing a laugh from Wachter. Hamilton then turned and scurried away back to the locker room, crouching down to stay out of the TV camera's view.

The scene was a reminder that while being one of the most effective -- and well-compensated -- defensemen in the NHL, Hamilton is a different sort of fellow.

The kind who sometimes stands with his soles pointed inward, giving interviews while balancing on the outside edges of his feet. The kind who engages in theoretical conversations about which role in a "Money Heist" episode he'd most likely play. "My favorite guy in the show is The Professor. I think that's the role," he told ESPN recently. "Although I don't know if I'd be good at it. I don't think I'd be a successful thief."

And the kind that interview-bombs his teammates. It's just what Dougie does.

"He's a super nice guy. You just gotta like Dougie," Devils captain Nico Hischier said.

Hamilton has gained the reputation for being one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL, ranking eighth in points per 60 minutes for backliners (1.29) since 2018-19. In that span, he attempted 949 shots in 191 games, one of many reasons he's become a darling of the analytics community. He's the kind of creative playmaker who has earned his green light from coaches to freelance offensively, because he's solid enough defensively to cover for it and because it'll usually result in great things in the attacking zone.

"They don't really talk to me about it. That's when I'm at my best, when I'm playing like that," Hamilton said. "It's nice that they let me do that and I just have to make the right decisions."