BUFFALO NY - DECEMBER 31: Forward Curtis Hamilton #16 of Canada scores past goalie Robin Lehner #30 of Sweden during the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship game between Canada and Sweden on December 31 2010 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
When the Oilers selected Curtis Hamilton 48th overall the biggest questions surrounding him were injury-related. Touted as a potential first round selection earlier in the year, Hamilton's stock had fallen as a result of injuries that limited him to just 26 games during his draft season. After being selected by the Oilers, Hamilton rebounded nicely from his injuries finishing third on the Saskatoon Blades in scoring last year with 82 points in 62 games and was selected to play for Canada at the World Juniors.
The offensive production was a nice surprise from Hamilton who had been drafted as a strong two-way player who could score but was better suited to the defensive aspects of the game. Having answered the questions surrounding his health, the question was now whether or not he woudl be able to translate that offense to the AHL, and ultimately, the NHL. Through the first half of this season with the Baron the results have been a little disappointing for the prospect we've ranked 16th in Top 25 Under 25.
|Rank||Player||DOB||Drafted||Year||Ben ||Bruce ||DB ||Derek ||Jon||Ryan||Scott|
After signing a contract with the Oilers in April, Hamilton began his pro career with the Oklahoma City Barons this fall and the transition from the WHL to the AHL hasn't been a seamless one for the big forward. After a great season last year Hamilton has struggled mightily to bring any of that offense to the Barons this season scoring only 5 goals and 5 assists through 37 games so far, numbers seen as cause for concern by some.
While I don't want to place too much importance on half a season in the AHL, the offensive numbers alone are less than encouraging and are a big part of why Hamilton has fallen four spots to number sixteen in our rankings this time around after ranking twelfth during the summer. DB's thoughts on Hamilton pretty much echo that line of thinking:
I’ve always thought that he was a bit over-rated offensively and I was curious as to how it would translate to the next level. He’s a had a tough year in OKC in terms of generating offense. As a 2nd round pick he’s tracking well, I’m just not sure what we have with him.
In Scott's excellent look at the quality of competition in Oklahoma City we get an indication that some of Hamilton's struggles may be, in part at least, the result of his role on the team. Looking at Scott's data I think it's reasonable to infer that Hamilton isn't getting the best line mates or opportunities this season. That alone doesn't excuse Hamilton's number this year; if he was playing better he'd likely be rewarded for it, but it does give some indication of what's happening in Oklahoma City and that he's in part the victim of his situation.
Ben wrote this about Hamilton during the summer:
Yet there are still questions: will the left shoulder separation and collarbone injuries, so serious he's held together by steel plates like the Six Million Dollar Man, come back to haunt him? Will he be able to keep up an offensive pace that saw him bag 82 points in the WHL last year but enjoy the assistance of three pretty talented junior-level scorers? Is he a flash in the plan, another Liam Reddox who gets our hopes up with dynamite offense in junior but never manages to translate it to the pros? Or is Hamilton the Horcoff-style two-way player every team in the NHL is constantly crying out for?
Right now we still don't have answers to those questions. The early results aren't encouraging and look a lot more Reddox-like than Shawn Horcoff but I do still think he can outperform his draft spot which is a positive for any prospect. And of course there is still time left to, in some way, salvage the season as the Barons continue to push towards the playoffs. If instead we see more of the same there is a very good chance he falls further in the rankings during the summer as that strong 19 year-old season gets smaller in the rearview mirror.