It's nasty outside -- even for March in Winnipeg -- and yet there was Dougie Hamilton, seemingly oblivious to it all, hustling around the MTS Iceplex Monday afternoon during a Boston Bruins' optional skate with a size-large grin on his mug.
And little wonder. After all, how many defencemen were living the National Hockey League dream at the tender age of 19?
"It's like a dream come true for me," began Hamilton. "We're pretty busy and it's gone by really quick so far... the games just start to kind of blur together after awhile. It's just a lot of fun and I think I've adjusted well. What can I say? I'm pretty happy."
Same goes for the Bruins, who are getting some solid play from their 2011 first-round draft pick in his rookie campaign. Hamilton is logging just over 17 minutes a game and with 12 points (three goals, nine assists), is second to Edmonton's Justin Schultz for points among NHL rookie defencemen while finding a place in a lineup that will once again contend for the Stanley Cup.
"He's been really good for us," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "He's a good, puck-moving defenceman who sees the ice well and does a lot of things. He has what every first-year player does: A little glitch here and there and those are things that are very fixable. We've worked with him really hard and he's got a great attitude. There's only upside for this guy."
Selected ninth overall in 2011 -- two picks after the Winnipeg Jets chose Mark Scheifele -- Hamilton comes from good stock. His older brother Freddie is a fifth-round draft pick of the San Jose Sharks now playing with Worcester in the AHL, his father Doug is a former Canadian Olympic rower who won a bronze medal in 1984 and competed in 1988, while his mother Lynn was also an Olympian as a member of Canada's women's basketball team.
He arrived at the Bruins' condensed training camp after dominating with the Niagara Ice Dogs in the Ontario Hockey League during the lockout and suiting up for Canada at the world junior championship, but with little idea of where his immediate future might be.
"There wasn't much said. I had an idea I was going to camp and that was it," said Hamilton with a grin and a shrug. "I was just happy to get the opportunity and to be here right now instead of junior. I think I've learned so much already and I've gotten so much better at so many aspects to my game. That's what's exciting."
Head down with his nose to the daily grindstone, Hamilton admits he has had very few moments to soak all this in and enjoy the moment. Although, there has been the odd occasion.
"At the start with my first game and all those things," Hamilton said. "And when I was playing against some of my idols, like (Alex) Ovechkin and my first game against him in Washington. That was pretty cool. I grew up watching him, idolizing him and enjoying what he does on the ice. So, I tried not to watch him too much, but when you're sitting on the bench, it happens.
"There's no real time to relax and take it all in. But I kinda like that. I just go-go-go. I'm sure once I get to the summer I'll realize what's going on.
"I'm just trying to have fun. Hockey is fun. This is why you play. I'm trying to get better and enjoy myself at the same time. With this team, it's been a lot of fun winning and being around these guys."
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