Curtis Hamilton could have been drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft if he had been healthy during his draft year. Because he wasn't healthy, there was some thought that he might last until the third or fourth round despite some obvious talent. As it turned out, the Oilers stepped in and picked Hamilton 48th overall, and at least so far, that little gamble is paying off. Not only has Hamilton been healthy for the entire season, he's also taken significant steps forward offensively without cheating on his defensive responsibilities. After a strong start to the year, Hamilton also made the Canadian entry for the World Junior Championships, which gave all of us an opportunity to see him playing against some of the best players in his age group in the world. It was fun to watch Hamilton's role grow as the tournament progressed, his gritty game working to great effect all tournament long (it was also fun to see him chip in offensively with four goals). Curtis Hamilton has exceeded any reasonable expectations, which is why he's one of the biggest movers on the Top 25 Under 25.
One of the biggest movers indeed. I moved Hamilton up five spots from my summer list, and that was the smallest jump among our group of five! That kind of jump doesn't come without reason, so let's take a look at some numbers. First up, we'll look at how Hamilton has performed at even strength (excluding EN situations) so far this year, breaking his numbers down into (mostly) six-game segments.
The first thing I wanted to point out was the inconsistency, not because I want to label Hamilton as inconsistent, but because I think that this kind of feast and famine scoring pattern is typical. Inconsistency in results is the norm, and that's even more true in hockey where luck-fueled runs happen with regularlity. Hamilton has the "hard worker" rep, so these splits won't hurt him, but if this was Ryan Martindale? "Inconsistent effort" would be written in big red ink (it's one of the reasons that I don't take the knocks on him too seriously).
Anyroad, back on point, these results are tremendous. It would be great if he could get to an EV point per game, but 30 points in 37 games is very respectable indeed (and ignores his 1-1-2 with an EN). His individual point percentage is pretty well in line with what you'd expect from most forwards, and if anything, might be a little bit low at 66.7% (the average is around 70%, at least in the NHL), which suggests both that these results are sustainable (although he doesn't have an EVG in either of the last two segments) and that Hamilton is playing with some other very talented players (since the offense isn't running exclusively through him). It also suggests that he's probably not an elite offensive talent (those guys usually run between 75% and 85% in the NHL), but that's not exactly news.
The +/- column, however, is ridiculous. In the games Hamilton has played, the Blades are +29 at EV with him on the ice and -3 when he's sitting on the bench, and although Hamilton's offense has been inconsistent, his two-way game seems to have stayed on the straight and narrow. He hasn't been outscored in any of the segments, and there just aren't many goals for his opponents when he's on the ice (less than one every two games), a very encouraging sign.
So what about special teams? Here's the data, again broken into (mostly) six-game segments:
Not much to say here other than Hamilton looks to be a fixture on both special teams units, contributing points on close to 50% of the goals both on the power play and on the penalty kill. That kind of responsibility as one of the "go-to" guys on his club should help his development tremendously.
So there you have it. Curtis Hamilton has been impressive. The Blades have him listed at 6'3'' and 206 lbs., which makes size yet another item in the plus column. The "A" on his jersey suggests some strong leadership qualities as well. His EV scoring looks like it will be good enough to keep him hitting above the Mendoza line, and his commitment to two-way play is extremely encouraging. If Hamilton can avoid injuries and keep a good head on his shoulders, he looks like a great bet to have an NHL career.