The Oilers' third and final second round selection at the 2010 Draft was a relatively unheralded WHL winger named Curtis Hamilton. That’s not to say Hamilton is easy to miss on the ice – at 6’3", 202lbs, he has some presence – but thanks to some injury trouble he saw his 2009-10 season all but wiped out. That made him something of a wildcard on Draft day, but the longer I think about the pick, the happier I am that the Oilers made it.
To begin with, I think it’s appropriate to take a look at what Hamilton’s skill-set is, exactly. Since The Hockey News didn’t bother to do a write-up for Hamilton, who they ranked as the 96th-best eligible prospect, I’m going to quote a largish segment from McKeen’s write-up in their (vastly superior) draft preview:
The son of Kelowna general manager and owner, Bruce Hamilton, Curtis endured a double fractured collarbone that cost him 45 games in total. Hamilton sustained the first injury while representing Canada in the Super Series, prior to that he was a productive member of Team Canada at the U18 in North Dakota. He brings a nice mixture of size and skill and marries it with unrivaled hockey sense. He is one of the smartest players available in the draft as he does all the little things that add to team success. Whether it be advancing the puck to the right man or finishing his checks, Hamilton buys into team concepts and is a highly coachable player who is low maintenance and has a team-first mentality. His offensive game is mature and he has improved his quickness this season.
I should point out that this needs to be taken with a grain of salt; McKeen’s loves Hamilton, and while they’re not shy about being critical where they think it’s deserved, they definitely put together a glass half-full profile here. They aren’t the only ones, though: ISS and Central Scouting both liked Hamilton as well.
A dissenting voice belongs to Michael Remmerde, a scout for Red Line Report based out West. From his blog:
If they still had the opt-in rule, his agent might tell him to wait until next year. Two broken collarbones adds some uncertainty. I was hoping he'd answer the questions this year I had about his somewhat soft style of play, but that didn't really happen this year. Has good hockey sense and some hands, but I can't decide if this guy could be a steal outside of the top 100 picks or too much of a risk. I think I'd just let some team with extra 3rd/4th round picks grab him.
Melding these together, we can get a grainy picture of what Hamilton is at this point in time. Character and intelligence are two attributes I’m a sucker for (tell me even a hopeless prospect is blessed with hockey sense, and I’ll rationalize a future for him) and they’re strengths for Hamilton, who has an otherwise good, well-rounded, if not exceptional skillset. He’s a big player, but reports differ on how physical he is. The bright red flag for Hamilton is injury, which has already impacted his career and becomes the number one concern moving forward.
Let’s move on to the numbers.
Hamilton’s numbers are atrocious this season, but given his injury situation, I’m not sure how much we can read into that. So rather than focus on his 16 points in 26 games this season, I decided to compare his numbers from last season (when he was healthy) with some of the other top Major Junior prospects, and see where he fit in. I took every forward drafted in the top-100 (aside from over-ager Craig Cunningham) who played in the OHL, WHL or QMJHL last season and put them on the list:
The players are ranked by relative points per game, which takes into account average goal scoring in each league. Because the WHL averaged fewer goals per game in 2008-09 than the OHL or QMJHL, I inflated their totals by a proportionate amount, in this case 5.5%.
There are obvious limitations to this method, chief among them that it’s even more difficult to project off a 16 year-old season than it is a 17 year-old season. Not only that, but all the evidence I’ve seen suggests the draft year as far more relevant to long-term projection than the pre-draft season. Still, with Hamilton’s 2009-10 being all but a write-off, this can give us a rough idea of what kind of player he is, offensively. I’d say it tells us that he has a chance at a career as a scorer; perhaps not a great chance, given injury, but he was certainly in the range at 16.
(First digression: I wonder how much the Oilers value scouting reports of players at 16 relative to the same reports at age 17. The selection of Hamilton and Martindale, and perhaps even Hall over Seguin, could be suggestive. Or it could just be noise.)
(Second digression: Ohhhh, Jordan Weal.)
Hamilton also performed well at the slightly younger tournament of small sample sizes, putting up five points in six games for Canada despite being younger than many of the other players at the World U-18’s.
To sum up, Hamilton’s a gamble. His scouting report points to a well-rounded player, his pre-injury numbers suggest he could be a high-end guy, and his size makes him extra attractive for the Oilers. On the other hand, his injury situation is a serious one and makes it difficult to get an accurate read on where he’s at relative to the rest of his draft class. Let’s just say he could be much higher or much lower the next time we put this list together.