Carolina Hurricanes: The Growth of Dougie Hamilton

RALEIGH, NC - NOVEMBER 11: Dougie Hamilton #19 of the Carolina Hurricanes juggles a hockey puck during warm ups prior to an NHL game against the Ottawa Senators on November 11, 2019 at PNC Arena in Raleigh North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - NOVEMBER 11: Dougie Hamilton #19 of the Carolina Hurricanes juggles a hockey puck during warm ups prior to an NHL game against the Ottawa Senators on November 11, 2019 at PNC Arena in Raleigh North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images) /

With an expanded role this season Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton has established himself as one of the NHL’s best. Just what exactly has led to his success?

Entering year two with the Carolina Hurricanes, Dougie Hamilton has taken his game to the next level on both sides of the puck. Seeing an increase in ice time of almost three and a half minutes per game, up from 19:40 in 2018-19 to 23:04 so far this season, Hamilton is currently second in defense scoring and tied for 13th overall with fellow Hurricane Andrei Svechnikov.

Brought in to help Carolina’s ever struggling power play, Dougie mostly played behind Justin Faulk on the Hurricanes’ second unit. While Faulk averaged 2:56 in power play time on ice per game last season, Hamilton only saw 1:52, pretty much half as much time. Flash forward to training camp, Faulk gets traded to St. Louis, giving Dougie a larger role.

Currently averaging 2:54 in power play TOI, Hamilton has been lights out.  While he only has one goal on the man advantage, his puck movement ability has been on full display with seven power play assists. To put that into perspective, last season Faulk finished the year with 10 pp points in 82 games, Dougie already has 8 in the first quarter of the season.

In addition to playing on the man advantage, Dougie has seen some time on the penalty kill. While it seems as if he was going to be doing this if Faulk was still on the team or not, it has given Hamilton the opportunity to be more of an all situations player.

While mainly thought of as an offensive defenseman who struggles a bit in his own end while he was in Calgary and Boston, Hamilton has looked more than capable in his own end this season.

Playing with his 5 on 5 defense partner, Jaccob Slavin, Dougie has been steady on the PK. There’s been several occasions where he used his offensive instincts to clear the puck off the boards, finding a Hurricanes forward or two for a short handed chance.

One of these chances finally ended up converting on November 1st against Detroit when Dougie cleared the puck from danger inadvertently finding Brock McGinn for a short handed goal.

His elite level of play has been on full display during even strength as well. Using his big 6′ 6” frame to his advantage, Hamilton has been able to use his stick to bail himself in the rare event he’s caught out of position.

Paired with Slavin as the Hurricanes’ top D-pair, Dougie’s 9 goals currently lead all NHL defenseman. He has already passed the halfway mark of last year’s 39 point season with 22 in 20 games and is only trailing Washington’s John Carlson in points from the blueline (31).

This early season production has easily put him on pace to beat his career high of 50 back in 2016-17 with the Flames. Hamilton set a single season career high in goals last season with 18. His 9 in 20 games puts his on pace to set a new career high. This holds true for assists as well, with 37 back in 16-17, his 13 already on the young season puts him in prime position to set yet another career high.

If his offensive production and defensive zone improvements weren’t exciting enough in their own right, it’s the timely nature of his production that has led to Dougie’s name being thrown around in Norris Trophy conversations. Coming up clutch when the Hurricanes are in need of a spark, Hamilton has proven to be a player that the coaching staff can rely on late in games.

Through the first 20 games of the season, 6 of his points have come in the first period, 9 in the second, 5 in the third and 2 in OT.  This fairly even spread of points illustrates how consistent he has been through a full 60. Among his 22 points, 12 of them have either tied the game or gave the Hurricanes a lead.

Already this season he’s set a few Carolina Hurricanes franchise records for a defenseman. First, his four game point streak at the start of the season was the longest streak by a d-man in Whalers/Canes history before he broke that record with a six game streak at the end of October. Currently on a five game point streak, there’s a chance he could break this record once again.

Just recently he broke Mark Howe‘s record for fewest games to reach 20 points by a defenseman set back in 1980-81, hitting the milestone in 19 games. Looking a bit further down the line, Howe’s 80 points in the 79-80 season is the most in franchise history, another record Dougie has the chance to break if he keeps up his scoring pace.

Off ice, Dougie has seamlessly fit in with the Hurricanes. Earning an unfair reputation with the media for being “locker room cancer” he has been anything but. Often hanging out with Andrei Svechnikov and Warren Foegele away from the rink, the trio’s off ice chemistry looks to be translating to on ice success.

With his stellar play Dougie is rightfully in the Norris conversation. It remains to be seen if he can continue his elite level of pay for all 82 regular season games, but for a player known to have slow  starts before elevating his game in the second half of the season, I wouldn’t bet against Dougie.

Carolina Hurricanes
Carolina Hurricanes /

Carolina Hurricanes

Even though he’s had a few miscues that directly led to goals against, it goes without saying that Dougie has been one of the Hurricanes’ MVPs so far. While no player is without their faults, Hamilton has done far more good than bad, establishing himself as one of the better defenseman not only on Carolina’s blueline, but in the entire NHL.

Eligible to sign an extension soon, the Hurricanes management may have to get creative if they want to lock up their star defenseman for a reasonable deal before he becomes an UFA in 2021-22. At 26, Dougie is in his prime years and will likely be looking for a raise on his current deal with term.

As a right handed defenseman opposing teams will be lining up should he make it to unrestricted free agency. Given how both the team and player has performed together there’s likely nothing to worry about, as the two sides will likely come to terms on a new deal sometime this upcoming offseason.

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Question for CC readers: What are your thoughts on Hamilton’s performance this season thus far?