Friday, January 1, 2021

Hurricanes Preview: Dougie Hamilton Autographed Card

This will likely be the preface to all of this year's Season Preview posts: 2020 is a different beast and requires adaptability; in my case, it means the joint posts with my "main/personal" blog will not be in the "player here/analysis there" format but rather the entire scope of the analysis will take place here and the player will have some sort of direct connection to what's written. Caveats: at this point, despite the season being set to start in Mid-January, several impact players haven't found a team yet and quite a few teams are currently above the salary cap, which means there is much maneuvering left to do.

A lot has been made of last season's Norris Trophy voting and how the vote was split between the offensive powerhouse John Carlson and the well-rounded Roman Josi who happened to have a career year as well, but let's not forget Dougie Hamilton was also a force on the blue line until he got injured in January, after representing the Carolina Hurricanes at the All-Star Game. He had an astonishing 14 goals and 40 points in 47 games, playing over 23 minutes a night on one of the league's best brigades and finished 7th in Norris voting despite playing in 20-23 fewer games than the rest of the league.

What makes their odds look good:
Up-front, the top line of Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and Andrei Svechnikov is exactly what it is supposed to be - elite - but it's the defense that turns heads, starring Hamilton, Jaccob Slavin, and Brady Skjei in a top-three unit that rivals any in the NHL; Jake Gardiner used to be a #2 in Toronto and is instead a luxury #6 in Carolina, and 22-year-old Jake Bean, fresh off being named the AHL's defenseman of the year, should have a spot on the middle pair. And that's saying nothing of Brett Pesce and once-highly-touted prospect Haydn Fleury.

Question marks:
Was Ryan Dzingel only a good fit with the Ottawa Senators? His first season in Carolina was disappointing, and Nino Niederreiter and Vincent Trocheck have also failed to produce as expected. And the goaltending pair of Petr Mrazek and James Reimer is possibly the weakest in the league.

This isn't the deepest lineup and they're an injury away from being in danger of missing the postseason because of that, but dealing with such a position of strength is a blessing for years in that even if more stud defensemen come up through the draft, the rest become assets that can be dealt to remedy to any weaknesses.

Third in the Central Division.

Which brings us to Hamilton. Like Carlson, he has flaws, but one cannot dismiss the qualities he does have - reach, extreme mobility, a good shot, tremendous offensive vision and strong shape. He's on his third team, because eventually, his lack of physical play at his size gets on coaches' nerves, as do the multiple giveaways. But the time that he keeps his coaches happy, he's extremely efficient.

Here he is from his days in Juniors, with the Niagara IceDogs, after a 58-point season (in 67 games) as a 17-year-old, about to be selected by the Boston Bruins in the first round (9th overall), on card #179 from In The Game's 2011-12 Heroes And Prospects collection:
He signed it in blue sharpie on my Mom's birthday in 2017 after a Calgary Flames game in Montréal, with his then-jersey number (27) tagged at the end.

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