What do Drew Doughty, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Pietrangelo, John Klingberg, and Aaron Ekblad all have in common?
Besides from being elite, NHL all-stars, those five all trail Calgary Flames defenceman Dougie Hamilton in points through the first third of the 2016-17 season.
Hamilton has been on a torrid pace as of late, and it’s no coincidence that the Flames are playing their best hockey of the season as the young, 23-year-old begins to heat up.
However, things haven’t always been rosy in Calgary for the Toronto native, with trade rumours plaguing his second season with the Flames.
Despite the rumours, Hamilton has looked unfazed as of late and is positioning himself as a key member of the Calgary blueline for years to come.
Following his third season with the Boston Bruins organization in 2014-15, Hamilton was fresh off a career high 42 points in 72 games.
Although his play seemed to be improving by the year in Boston, the Bruins pulled the trigger on blockbuster deal that summer due to a tightening salary cap.
Calgary acquired the big six-foot-five defender in exchange for a first-round pick and two second-round picks in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, who turned out to be forward Zachary Senyshyn, and defencemen Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and Jeremy Lauzon.
Immediately after being acquired, the pending restricted free agent inked a six-year, $34.5 million deal to keep him in the Flames fold until 2021.
This deal gave some Flames fans pause at the time, as the potential was certainly there for Hamilton, though the $5.75 million cap hit would be tough to stomach if he didn’t live up to expectations.
His first season in Calgary was very much up and down, as he started very slow out of the gate with just five points over his first 24 games, but picked things up in the second half of the year to finish with a respectable 43 points.
It was a similar situation through the first few weeks of this season as well, though Hamilton was able to maintain a better offensive clip with 12 points through October and November.
Much like the Flames’ turnaround, Hamilton’s has been equally impressive and drastic, posting 11 points over his last 12 games and seeing his average ice time increase to well over 20 minutes per game.
A big piece of that has been his new pairing with Calgary captain Mark Giordano, which has seen added responsibility but more opportunity for the former ninth overall pick.
In November, Flames bench boss Glen Gulutzan came under fire for pairing Hamilton with Dennis Wideman and Jyrki Jokipakka in a depth role. But since returning to the top defensive pairing, Hamilton has been able to grow his game and help shut down some of the top offensive weapons in the Western Conference.
“He’s been great,” says Giordano. “He’s been easy to play with. I don’t know how to explain it. He’s jumping in and making plays and shooting the puck well right now. It’s been fun to play with him, it’s been fun to watch him jump in and make plays and create like he has been.”
"Just try to be consistent, do the same things and hopefully the offence keeps coming." – Dougie Hamilton pic.twitter.com/fXyL4VKNXq
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) December 14, 2016
During Calgary’s rough stretch in early November, the rumour of Hamilton being put on the trading block circulated around the NHL.
According to Flames President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke, a rival general manager inquired about Hamilton to Calgary GM Brad Treliving but was ultimately shot down. It’s alleged the unnamed GM then talked to another manager about his offer, and the firestorm started after that.
Trade talks have since cooled down, but there’s no doubt the interest in Hamilton is still high around the league for teams needing an offensively gifted defenceman, who in Burke’s words, can “skate like a deer.”
Hamilton’s impact on the Flames can also be best exemplified by his game against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night, as he led the team with two goals and one assist in a 6-2 drubbing at the Saddledome.
Dougie Hamilton scored twice and added an assist for his third three-point game of the season. pic.twitter.com/hKKD4I4S5r
— NHL (@NHL) December 11, 2016
It was a solid display for one of the faces of Calgary’s young roster, although his face didn’t make the three star selection as his brother Freddie was mistakenly used at the end of the broadcast.
Although three-point nights might not be the norm for Hamilton moving forward, Flames brass are hoping this month will serve as a turning point for the young blueliner in finding a consistent rhythm to his game.
In short, it’s been fun watching Hamilton teach us how to Dougie.