Seventeen-year-old Freddie Hamilton might be on the brink of rediscovering the scoring touch that made him a first round pick of the Niagara IceDogs in the 2008 Ontario Hockey League Priority Draft.
Two years ago, during his minor midget year, Hamilton racked up 59 goals and 65 assists in 70 games played with the Toronto Marlboros of the Greater Toronto Hockey League, the same minor hockey system which has produced numerous NHL players such as Rick Nash, Jason Spezza and Andrew Cogliano.
Last year, his first in the OHL, Hamilton tallied just 10 goals and 18 assists in 65 regular season games and two goals and two assists in 12 playoff games. Hamilton’s school marks were excellent though, as the Grade now 12 student maintained a 99.1 percent average in his 2008-09 school year.
This season has started off differently for the IceDogs 6-foot-1, 187-pound center.
One small difference is his grades; he is maintaining a 98.3 percent average. The bigger difference is Hamilton has a new teammate: 16-year-old Doug Hamilton, his little brother. "Little Dougie" is 6-foot-3, 180 pounds – and – he is now playing defense for the IceDogs after being drafted in the second round, 27th overall, in the 2009 OHL Entry Draft.
Maybe having his younger brother around has pushed Fred a little bit, or maybe he’s just more experienced, but his current numbers prove he might have found his scoring touch once again in his second OHL season.
After 24 games in Hamilton’s sophomore campaign, he has scored 10 goals and already tied last year’s total goal output of 10 in 65 games. Hamilton, who will turn 18 on Jan. 1, is on pace for a 28-goal season. He also has seven assists.
Even more noteworthy about the former Marlboro is his versatility. Like any true competitor, Hamilton likes to score goals but says "he is more concerned about being a complete all-around player."
This kid is not just book smart.
"I think Freddie has matured as a player, and he has put a lot of hard work in this past summer," IceDogs head coach Mike McCourt said. "You can see it in his skating, and he is getting to a lot of pucks.
"(Hamilton) has aspirations to be a NHL player, and he works extremely hard at it."
Hockey’s Future spoke to Hamilton at the Gatorade Garden City Complex in St. Catharines, Ontario recently.
HF: Tell me about playing with your younger brother Doug.
FH: It’s really exciting and it’s really fun. We have been pretty close our whole life, and we haven’t really got the chance to play with each other that much, so it’s pretty cool just having him around. Being able to go through the OHL experience with him is a lot of fun.
HF: Your favorite player is Matt Sundin. Why?
FH: I grew up in Toronto, and I liked the (Toronto Maple) Leafs my whole life and went to a lot of games. I like a lot of qualities of (Sundin); he seemed to be a great leader, and somebody who just worked hard every game. I think I kind of play like him, and I have learned a lot from him.
HF: You only had eight penalty minutes last year and six so far this year. Why do have such low penalty minutes?
FH: I just think there is no sense in putting your team down a man. I’m one of the penalty killers, so the team needs me on the ice to kill penalties, so there is no sense in me being in the box. I’ve tried my whole life just to be able to hit and win battles without taking penalties, and I think I’ve gotten really good at that.
HF: Tell me about your special teams play.
FH: I take pride in playing both sides of the game, so I’ve worked hard not only to work on my power-play skills, but also on the defensive side of the game. I take pride in keeping pucks out of my net, and I work just as hard on the penalty kill as I do on the power play.
HF: What is your biggest strength?
FH: I think that I am a complete player, and I take pride in being an all-around player. I pass, work it down low, and I have been able to score quite a bit this year. I also take pride in my defensive game. I think I’m pretty good in all areas of the game.
HF: What is an aspect of your game you need to improve?
FH: I think I need to just keep on working on my speed and strength. The game is getting a lot faster and stronger as you move up, and if you want to get to the next level you have to work on speed and strength. I had to do it to get into the OHL, and I have to be a bigger force this year. If I want to get to the next level, I just have to keep on working on that.
HF: How have your coaches helped you to become a more complete player?
FH: My coaches are open to a lot of good questions I have. They relate really well to us this year and help me in any areas of the game I have questions with or if they think I should be doing something different.
HF: With such good grades, why did you choose the OHL and not go on a full-ride scholarship into the ?
FH: I was thinking about the NCAA, but it just came down to wanting to play at the best level of hockey that I could in the two years after minor midget. The OHL has the best competition, and I think it has the best players in the world. I also think Canadian universities are just as good of an option as the American universities. With the OHL education package, you have a great option. So, if I don’t make it to the NHL, it’s a great option to go and play for a Canadian university and go to school there.NCAA
HF: What has changed in your game since minor midget?
FH: I’ve become a stronger and more dynamic player, even from last year. Coming into the OHL you need to get more comfortable with the speed and the strength of all the players. I think I’ve picked up my game a lot this year, and I am starting to score a lot more and show the offensive side of my game.
HF: How do you stay focused for every game in a long OHL season?
FH: It’s a long season and a lot of work, but I am very self-motivated, and I take pride in doing my best every single night. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do that.
HF: How hard is the OHL?
FH: It is pretty hard. Coming into it, there was a bit of a transition stage with bigger, stronger, faster players, and not only that, it is tough schedule and you also go to school, go to practice and go to work out every day you don’t have a game. There are three games a week, and sometimes you travel and play three games in three nights. That is pretty tough on your body.
HF: What have you learned in your first two seasons in the OHL?
FH: Just stay positive through the downs and not get too high. There are a lot of ups and downs in this league, so you just have to stay as consistent as you can, keep on working hard and – hopefully – you have more positives.
HF: What is your favorite part of hockey?
FH: I just think it’s really fun and exciting. The thrill of playing with a group of guys that you spend a whole season with and you try to make a run with is fun. It’s hard to explain the feeling you get when you score a goal or make a play but even practices are fun. It is hard to explain unless you have played the game.
HF: How exciting would it be to hear your name called at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles?
FH: It would be huge. I’m really looking forward to it, and, hopefully, my name does get called. I’m just going to keep on working hard throughout the season, and I think if I do work hard my name will be called.
HF: Sum up Fred Hamilton in nine words or less.
FH: Complete all-around player, character kid and good leader.