The SB Nation hockey sites are doing an NHL mock draft again this year, and you can follow along here. The first four off the board were Adam Larsson, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog and Sean Couturier. That left a decision to us as to whether to take Jonathan Huberdeau (listed as a center but playing wing), another emerging forward, or even defenseman Dougie Hamilton.
We knew it'd be a little controversial for some of our readers to go with the defenseman this early -- even more so given Huberdeau's continuing surge through the playoffs and Memorial Cup. (In our defense, our turn to pick came weeks ago, before the Memorial Cup completed and before the Scouting Combine sent more buzz into the hockey teenager-stalking world.)
When LHH regular OzzyFan polled regulars here on Huberdeau vs. Hamilton, the split was in the forward's favor. A few days prior to that poll, Chrismc614 gave some thoughtful reasons on why an Isles fan would switch from saying "draft a forward" to considering a dynamic D-man like Hamilton. And one day before that, in our Lighthouse Hockey Mock Draft, user Fabtraption -- who had the honor of selecting for the Islanders -- made his case for Dougie Hamilton:
Edit: Several have pointed out that Hamilton has grown more and may have checked in at near 6'6" at the combine (or might not...the info at that link has changed), so take that for what it's worth.
Weighing in at 6'4" and 195 lbs as an 18 year old, Hamilton provides the Islanders with a future big body on the ice, a prospect that has been missing from the Isles' backend...
...As we've slowly built up our prospect pool in the past few years, our defensive corps will soon be seen as an unsung strength, with the defensively sound pairing of Andy MacDonald and Travis Hamonic filling out one pair and a mix of Hamilton, de Haan, Matt Donovan, Ty Wishart, Mark Katic, and veteran Mark Streit filling out the other pairs for the future.
The following thinking is from January -- and Bossy knows the view of draft prospects evolves by the week during their draft year -- but Bruins2011DraftWatch is a fun go-to source for views like this on Hamilton:
The concern when falling in love with the size of a junior player is that his early physical development gave him an advantage he will not have when playing against NHL bodies. On the other hand, 6'4" is 6'4" (or now, 6'6") and that's an advantage at even the highest level.
Some people really like the insight of Kyle Woodlief of the Red Line Report and some do not, but he has been high on Hamilton all year, putting him as the only other D-man in this draft (besides Larsson, obviously) who has definite top-pair potential (granted, these views change over time):
"Hamilton...I love that kid. He's a two-way beast. He'll nail you, play physically in the defensive end, he can take the puck and go end-to-end with it. He can quarterback the power play. I think he's actually better as the triggerman on the power play-- he's got a big shot. He's approaching Larsson's level. Larsson's been there a couple of years, whereas Hamilton's development curve is heading straight up. So, Hamilton, I'd be shocked if he made it out of the top-eight picks this year."- Kyle Woodlief, Chief Scout and Publisher, Red Line Report; December 2010
Would the Islanders Take Dougie Hamilton?
To state the obvious: Only if they really, really like him. But he is among the prospects who the Islanders are reportedly bringing to Long Island for further study.
Certainly the Islanders' recent draft history with Garth Snow at the helm hints at drafting forwards with these very high picks and saving selections on D-men for later, when potential gems like Travis Hamonic and Matt Donovan tend to emerge. With D-men development curves being harder to peg than forwards, you're more likely to score hidden D gems later while the forwards with skill tend to go early.
That said, a team has 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goalies: You need twice as many forwards, period -- so reading a trend from just a few years of data is a bit of a stretch. The Islanders moved up twice to take Calvin De Haan at #12 two years ago. They passed on Luke Schenn -- who was the consolation prize for teams who couldn't get the three defenseman who went ahead of him -- when they needed picks and believed in a young center. They passed on Victor Hedman when some guy named John Tavares was available. Last year's selection of Nino Niederreiter was part of a league-wide run on forwards before Cam Fowler and, heh, Dylan McIlrath were selected.
So at #5 the Islanders have the luxury of selecting whomever they find is the best fit from an array of talented forwards and defensemen (Ryan Murphy is in that conversation).
Will they go with a defenseman? I wouldn't bet on it, but obviously if they go with we here won't complain if 6'4" Dougie Hamilton is the prize the Islanders take home on June 25.