On the heels of my conversation with Vic Brotzman about Senators prospect Pat Cannone, this week I had the opportunity to ask some questions of Darren Steinke, sports reporter for the Medicine Hat News, regarding another Senators Free Agent signing from this past spring, Wacey Hamilton. Hamilton played for the Medicine Hat Tigers for 4 seasons, and was the captain for the last 2.
Darren has covered the team for the local newspaper for 7 years and has seen the best of the WHL come through town in that time. He shared some of his first-hand insight, on the relatively unknown (in these parts at least) prospect, with SenShot.
Jared Crozier: What are Wacey Hamilton’s best attributes on the ice?
Darren Steinke: First off, Hamilton is strong in the faceoff circle and he is durable. During his career with the Medicine Hat Tigers, he became someone the team relied on, when the club needed to win a critical draw. Over the past two years, he has been extremely durable. He will play with all sorts to ailments to his body and not look out of place. That is something Hamilton takes pride in, because he personally felt he was seen as a Band-Aid during his first two years with the Tigers. He missed time as a rookie with a concussion, and he was limited to 37 games as a sophomore missing time with a shoulder injury and a fractured an ankle. He fractured his ankle blocking a shot, as the puck found an unpadded area to cause that injury. He also displayed the ability to be a playmaker collecting 100 assists in his final two WHL seasons.
DS: The big thing he will need to work on to make the next level is consistency, and that is something that is a challenge to anyone coming out of junior. Over his past two seasons, Hamilton is as good of a two-way player as there is in major junior hockey. That said, the veterans in the professional ranks will exploit weaknesses or tendencies a junior never realized he had. The best way for Hamilton to overcome that problem is just go in there and play and not be afraid to fail. He has to learn from errors he makes, and that shouldn’t be a problem. As with all juniors, Hamilton will have to get physically stronger. There is a big difference between the body of a player that turns 21 in September compared to a seasoned 27-year-old NHL player.
DS: Hamilton can be considered a power forward. He is pretty fearless and has no problem in battling in the hard areas in the corner or in front of the net to get a goal. He plays physical. Part of this goes to his leadership qualities too. As the Tigers captain, Hamilton always showed a pretty gritty work ethic, and the other players on the team see their captain selling out, so they fall in line quick.
DS: Hamilton shouldn’t be pigeonholed as an offensive player. As I said before, he has a strong two-way game. Besides collecting 144 points during his last two seasons with the Tigers, he was also a plus-44 in the plus-minus department. Besides playing the power play, he was also part of the Tigers penalty killing unit, and he was also always on the ice in the final minute of the third, when the Tabbies were closing out a game they led by one or two goals. It will be his defensive work that will likely land him a spot in the NHL one day.
DS: Hamilton has never been a problem off the ice. The Tigers coaches always have had a huge amount of trust in him. After overcoming injuries that hampered his first two seasons, Hamilton was so focused and driven in earning a chance to sign an NHL contract. He really wasn’t going to let anything jeopardize that. The only problem he seems to have off the ice is a habit of accidently destroying his cell phones. He seems to misplace them in areas where they get shorted out by sprinklers or run over by cars. He get teased about this a lot in Medicine Hat. He will definitely know that came from me.
JC: What about his work in the community?
DS: Hamilton was the Tigers top man in the community last season, and he won the Tigers team community service award. He does all of the teams community functions, whether it regards speaking to children in school, making hospital visits or wrapping gifts for the United Way in the mall. He took an extra hand in community work thanks to the influence of former Tigers teammate Bretton Cameron, who is a year older than Hamilton. The two are best friends. Cameron took the lead of initiating a couple of community activities in his time with the Tigers, and Hamilton followed that lead.
JC: How does he demonstrate leadership skills?
DS: I will definitely give Hamilton a big compliment here. I have covered the Tigers since September of 2004, and the team has had a lot of strong captains over that time. Out of that group of leaders, I would say Hamilton is the best captain the Tigers have had over that time. I hope that doesn’t get me in trouble, because I liked guys like Kris Russell, who is with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Brennan Bosch and Steve Marr, who were captains before Hamilton.
I always felt Hamilton had the best combination of being able to lead by example and say the right things to his teammates in the dressing room. Saying things in the dressing room doesn’t mean yelling out teammates, when things go wrong. He is good at sitting down and talking with struggling teammates to help build their confidence. Over the past two seasons, Hamilton was definitely the guys the other members of the Tigers pointed to as their leader. He was the Tigers captain for the past two seasons.
DS: I eventually see Hamilton as having a consistent NHL career. I think he will likely start off in the AHL, before moving up to the NHL level. With his work ethic and attitude, I wouldn’t put it past him to do the jump quicker than expected. I think he should be able to fit into one of those third line depth roles and be a strong dressing room guy that every team needs. He should be able to fill that role for a number of seasons. All he needs to do is get his chance.
I will also add another thing. I know dealing with the Tigers players, one question they always get asked by scouts is, “If you make the NHL and you could take one player from your major junior team with you and only one player, who would that person be?” First off, I would only dream of having NHL level talent. I am no where near that category. If I was in that position, Hamilton would be the player from the Tigers I would want to take with me.
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Hamilton played his overage year in Junior last year, and will be a key player for the Binghamton Senators this season. From the descriptions I have heard, think Zack Smith when you want to picture the type of player he can be at the NHL level after a couple of years of development in Binghamton.
Many thanks to Darren Steinke of the Medicine Hat News for sharing his thoughts on Wacey Hamilton with us.
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
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