by Lisa McRitchie on 02/15/12 at 03:00 AM ET
The Edmonton Oilers have in their systems several World Juniors players and stars. Ryan Smyth, Devan Dubnyk, Taylor Hall and of course Jordan Eberle have all had the honour. Those names may come to mind more easily than 2010 2nd round selection Curtis Hamilton, but Hamilton should not be forgotten. In 7 games at the 2011 World Juniors in Buffalo, Hamilton won silver, scored 4 goals and was second only to Brayden Schenn in that regard.
The reason why many may not think of Hamilton is that he is in his first professional season, playing for the Oklahoma City Barons, but has not made a lot of noise with the farm team. In 38 games, Hamilton has scored 5 goals and 6 assists and has found himself in the pressbox waiting for his chance to play several times in the season.
What many may not consider is just how difficult the transition from junior to professional can be, especially on a team with depth that has been built to win. The Oklahoma City Barons are in partnership with the Edmonton Oilers to help develop their players, but they are also in the business of hockey to win. And so, players aiming to move up the ranks have to earn their ice time and prove that they can succeed.
For Hamilton, his biggest adjustment has been puck movement. “The puck moves a lot faster here [in the AHL] and everyone can handle it. Everyone is a lot stronger too. When you’re 19 or 20 years old playing against 16 year old junior kids it’s easier to out muscle them. But when you’re playing against 30 year old men it’s a little more difficult. You have to adjust a little bit but I think that I’ve done a pretty good job of that.”
Hamilton makes no excuses for his first season, but transitions can be difficult and so Hamilton should be given time to adjust and develop in the AHL. The Oilers signed Hamilton to a three year contract last April because they see something in the young left winger, and not because they expected him to dominate instantly in the AHL.
“We’ve got a pretty deep team.” Hamilton explains, “It’s pretty hard obviously to put up points all of the time. The roles sometimes are given but you make the most of them and it’s tough to put up points most of the time, which is different from junior. But you’ve got to take it day by day and just continue on and try to get better every day.”
With the coaching staff and resources available to the Oilers prospects with the Barons, Hamilton will have the opportunities to improve and get better every day.
Making the move from the WHL has been more difficult than Hamilton had anticipated, but at the same time, that there are some similarities between the two levels. “It’s a bit of a step up, but the schedule is similar in junior. There are a lot of bus trips, and there are a lot of bus trips here as well. It’s probably the best want to prepare you for this game but you can only prepare yourself so much for it.”
In Hamilton’s last season in the WHL he finished 5th in plus-minus with an impressive +48 and in the top ton for assists with his total of 48. Scoring has not been as easy at the next level, to this point, but Hamilton is prepared to put in the time and effort. After all, he has ambitions to make it to the NHL like all other players in the AHL.
“I think it’s another step [playing in the NHL] that we all want to make down here, we all push each other. The puck moves a little bit faster and everyone’s a little bit stronger there too. So you can just prepare as best you can and keep your eyes forward.”
Playing with the Barons, a winning team in the AHL, will help with Hamilton’s confidence to some extent but it will be up to Hamilton to earn those playing minutes and become a success in the AHL before he will receive his call-up to the NHL. Although both Pitlick and Hamilton have had slower starts than anyone would have liked, neither can be considered anything but prospects at this point with many hockey years ahead of them.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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