Before I even get going with this, no I’m not saying Dougie Hamilton will win the Norris trophy this season. It’s pretty likely he won’t even be invited to the awards ceremony either, but I’m saying he could end up in the Top 5.
In 2016-17 he made his first appearance in the voting, finishing 9th, one spot behind fellow Flame and linemate Mark Giordano. Upon the formation of that dominant duo, both players gained recognition from around the league as one of the best pairings last season.
Both players made each other better and it says a lot when a 23 year old player is able to elevate the game of a veteran like Giordano. The way the duo complemented each other with strong chemistry and play styles had been a big reason why the Flames returned to the playoffs last season.
*Image from tsn.ca and Travis Yost’s piece Hamilton and Giordano are the best pairing in hockey
So what’s in a Norris Trophy winner? It is awarded to the defenseman who demonstrates the greatest all-around ability through out the season. It is for the defenseman who can both stop a goal, and then go down the ice to set up or score a goal for their team. Hamilton is strong in both areas.
Last season he faced off against the top talent from every team upon being paired up with Giordano. His even strength his CF% was 55% which was an astounding 6.9% higher relative to the rest of the team. Despite his difficult assignments and starting in the offensive zone only 47.7% of the time, he still put up 50 points which was up from his career high of 43 set in 2015-16.
AND HE’S ONLY 24 NOW! There’s no reason to believe that Dougie Hamilton won’t continue his development this season as he moves into the upper echelon of NHL defenders and perhaps he’s already taken the #1 spot on the Flames.
If Giordano and Hamilton can duplicate their chemistry and success from last season for a full 82 games (remember they weren’t paired until later in the year), then who knows how many points he could hit. Not to mention Hamilton will likely take a much bigger role on the powerplay this year as well which will bump his point totals even more.
With the Flames projected to have one of the league’s best defense cores this season, Hamilton will find himself in a situation to succeed. The bottom two pairings could take the brunt of the defensive shifts, leaving Gio and Hamilton the opportunity to become a very offensive pairing. Calgary players can sometimes get overlooked but as the Flames continue to improve and move towards the top tier of the NHL, recognition of Hamilton (and others) should only grow.
While last year and even this year could be Hamilton just getting his feet wet in the Norris conversation, it won’t be long until he’s a yearly contender for the trophy. Folks we have a real treat here in Calgary and will get to enjoy him for a very long time.