Can Dougie Hamilton make the Bruins this season?

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Dougie Hamilton announced his presence with authority on Friday as members of the media shoved plenty of microphones in his face. When a team wins their first Stanley Cup in 39 years and still gets the 9th overall pick in the draft, there’s going to be some excitement. After all—take the best team in the league last season, add one of the best defensive prospects in the draft, and you have the recipe for long-term success. Needless to say, there’s some intrigue surrounding the 6’5” blueliner.

Since the day he was drafted, it was no secret that he needed to put on some weight before entering the league. Having a long reach is one thing—having the strength to control NHL power forwards is completely different. So far this summer, he’s already proven that he has the ability to put add muscle to his lanky frame. Assistant GM Jim Benning likes what he’s seen so far:

“He looked really good today I thought he’s skating well. From the summer he weighed in at 188 and was 194 today, so he put on 5-6 lbs of muscle. He’s a young player and he’ll continue to get stronger and bigger. He’s going to be a good player. It’s just going to be a matter of time with him.”

The final statement in Benning’s remark tells the tale. There’s plenty of hope and optimism surrounding Hamilton; but defensemen take time to develop. Aside from growing into his frame and continuing to add muscle, he’ll need to continue to learn how to play defense at the higher leagues. He’s able to use his long wingspan to get out of trouble when he’s out of position in the OHL. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy when the players are even bigger and faster at the NHL level.

DJ Bean of WEEI in Boston noted that even though Hamilton has grown, there’s still plenty of room on his frame for more muscle:

“Wherever Hamilton is size-wise these days, it likely won’t be the same when he becomes an NHL regular, which is more likely to happen later rather than sooner. The common line of thinking is that he’ll need another year in the OHL to bulk up and polish his skill set, with Chiarelli saying in July that 210 pounds would be a “great” playing weight for Hamilton.”

It’s going to be extremely tough for Hamilton to make the team out of training camp even with the mounting hype. The Bruins solidified their top 6 for the upcoming season when the Bruins acquired Joe Corvo to replace Tomas Kaberle. Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Adam McQuaid, Johnny Boychuk, and Andrew Ference proved that when they play together, their defense is good enough to lead the team to a Stanley Cup. Matt Bartkowski and Steve Kampfer will be battling it out in training camp for the honor of sitting in the press box as the team’s 7th defenseman. Then today, the Bruins signed 23-year-old defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk to a one-year deal. The move gives the organization even more depth on the back-end and serves as a safety policy against injuries.

That’s a minimum of nine players who come into training camp ahead of Hamilton on the depth chart. No matter how well he plays in training camp, it will probably to take an injury (or two) for Hamilton to get a whiff of the NHL this season. With depth and experience, the Bruins are in the enviable position of being able to take their time with their prized prospect.

Then again, that won’t stop him from trying to make an impression on management this week. Stranger things have happened—but I wouldn’t hold my breath for an opportunity this season.

Eddie Lack expects to be released from hospital on Monday night

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As scary as the situation was for Carolina Hurricanes goalie Eddie Lack, the good news continues to pour in.

First, the Hurricanes provided an update that he had “full feeling in his extremities” while under observation at a hospital. This followed the promising sign that he was able to give a “thumbs up” gesture while being taken off the ice on a stretcher after the Hurricanes’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

The best news came late on Monday night, however, as Lack himself tweeted that he expects to head back home as early as this late evening/early morning:

That’s fantastic news. Video of that scary collision with Andreas Athanasiou can be seen in the video above this post’s headline.

Blues, Flames take care of business (Islanders … do not)

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For a while there, it seemed like the idle Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs would be Monday’s “winners.” That changed when the Carolina Hurricanes salvaged a standings point and the Tampa Bay Lightning stormed back to beat the Blackhawks.

Still, there were some teams who came through (beyond the Lightning) and those who fell flat, so let’s cover some of the results in short.

West teams get it done

Unlike their counterparts out East, West teams jockeying for position avoided “unforced errors” in losing to non-playoff teams.

The St. Louis Blues beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 while the Calgary Flames topped the Colorado Avalanche 4-2. Johnny Gaudreau generated his 200th point (and 201st) in Calgary’s win, while Alex Steen generated four assists. (Vladimir Tarasenko also enjoyed a three-point night.)

This keeps the Blues and Flames in position to advance. St. Louis is one point behind the Nashville Predators for third in the Central while the Flames are a point behind both the Sharks and Oilers for second and third in the Pacific (while remaining in shouting distance of the division title).

East teams stumble, some get over it

Again, the Lightning fought through hurdles to win and the Hurricanes managed that “charity point.”

Overall, East teams struggled. The New York Islanders fell to the Predators by a score of 3-1. Your mileage may vary on the Florida Panthers’ chances, especially after they fell 4-2 to the Buffalo Sabres.

Brian Gionta scored in his 1,000th game as Buffalo won, by the way.

Here’s what the race for the final spot in the East looks like after tonight:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Victor Hedman might just force his way into the Norris argument

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For quite some time this season, the Norris Trophy race felt a bit like “Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and [insert token finalist].” As it turns out, Victor Hedman is making it a pretty interesting three-horse race.

With Burns and Karlsson idle on Monday, Hedman continued to go on the best offensive tear of his already-impressive career, contributing three assists to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-4 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks.

As much credit as forwards Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin deserve in pushing Tampa Bay in Steven Stamkos‘ absence, Hedman has been an all-world blueliner for a Lightning team with a defense that isn’t really surrounding him with great talent.

He’s serving as a workhorse when his team needs him the most:

Now, when you look at the numbers, it’s probably fair to say that Hedman comes in third among the likely finalists in simple categories:

Brent Burns: 27 goals (!), 72 points in 75 games, +16 rating, 24:52 time-on-ice average

Erik Karlsson: 14 goals, 67 points in 74 games, +7, 26:53 minutes per game (fourth highest average in the NHL)

Victor Hedman: 15 goals, 65 points in 72 games, +2 rating, came into Monday with average of 24:15 minutes per game.

Looking at those breakdowns, you might wonder why someone wouldn’t just flippantly hand Hedman the “bronze medal” and a pat on the back … but things get more interesting if you ponder the all-around impact of those three.

Now, traditional-thinkers who slam risky defensemen for their mistakes often overstate such arguments. Both Burns and Karlsson tilt the ice in their teams’ favors, usually to profound degrees.

Still … Hedman locks opponents down to a truly elite degree and scores at a similar rate. Hedman could very well own the “two-way” argument; you could perhaps see his case most clearly when you compare his “HERO” chart to those of Burns and Karlsson, especially from the perspective of conceding shots.

Again, Burns remains the likely winner, and he would be a deserving one. You could make a solid Hart Trophy argument for Burns, in addition to tabbing him as the Norris frontrunner.

Even so, voters would be wise to take Hedman’s case seriously, especially as the Lightning continue their improbable playoff push.

Lightning storm back against Blackhawks, finish one point out of playoffs

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Who would have thought that the Tampa Bay Lightning would rally back from a 4-1 deficit tonight? Then again, who expected them to be so close to a playoff spot mere weeks ago, when they were sellers at the trade deadline?

The Lightning continue to show that they won’t just roll over and die, scoring four unanswered goals to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime on Monday.

While Jonathan Drouin was a catalyst for the second-period rally, it was an unlikely scorer who clinched the victory, as Yanni Gourde ended a thrilling run of 3-on-3 chances with the overtime-winner.

Really, it might have been fitting. Things looked glum when Tomas Jurco scored his first goal of the season against the Lightning, then the mood was totally flipped when Gourde’s second tally of 2016-17 grabbed a huge win.

With the Islanders losing to the Predators, the Hurricanes only managing a “loser point” against the Red Wings and the Bruins idle, Tampa Bay is a breath away from a playoff berth:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Yes, all of a sudden, a long-shot postseason run seems quite attainable.

Maybe the Lightning would prefer it if we kept counting them out, though?