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Another Arrow in the Quiver

Posted By Matt Preston On Dec 23 2011 @ 5:58 pm In Boston Bruins | No Comments

When he was drafted eighth overall in 2007 by the Boston Bruins, it was with great anticipation that the then 18-year old Zach Hamill came to Boston as the team’s second top-10 draft pick in two years. Yet, while Phil Kessel, taken fifth overall the year before, went on to early success in Black-and-Gold, Hamill spent more than most of the first four years of his professional career with the AHL’s Providence Bruins.

While other recent Bruins’ draft picks, many of who were taken later than Hamill’s #8 spot, made their way to the big club, Hamill toiled in unimpressive fashion down in Providence. The majority of Hamill’s first year after being drafted was spent back in the Western Hockey League, before a late season call up to Providence for all of seven games. He spent all of the 2008-2009 season in Providence, playing 65 games, but totaling a pedestrian 13 goals and 13 assists. His point totals nearly double in each of his next two seasons in Providence, though his career-highs of 34 assists last season and 43 points in 2009-2010 are not very striking for a player though to be the next great playmaking center in Boston’s stable. Hamill also played all of four NHL games coming into this season, to the tune of just two assists.

Entering his fifth season, Hamill remained on the Bruins’ roster until the waning days of training camp this fall before being put on waivers. Unclaimed, Hamill returned to Providence. Though he experienced much of the same success as past years, recording seven goals and seven assists in 25 games played, he did make a big change in his game, continuing the switch from center to wing that was made early in training camp. Called up for two games mid-November, it was not until a recent foot injury to Gregory Campbell that Hamill was recalled for Boston’s most recent four games and truly began to make an impact.

The raw numbers still are not there for Hamill, as he has posted just one assist in this most recent call-up, spending most of his time playing on Boston’s fourth offensive unit. The most telling signs of his emergence, however, came this past Monday when Campbell returned to the line-up and Hamill remained over Jordan Caron, who had beat Hamill out for a roster spot coming out of camp.

Beginning Monday night’s 3-2 win over the Canadiens still on the fourth unit, playing the wing alongside Campbell and Shawn Thornton, during the second period, Hamill was moved up to play on the Bruins’ top group with David Krejci and Nathan Horton, logging minutes in place of the suspended Milan Lucic. On top of playing with that group and demonstrating some nifty playmaking moves, flashes of what Bruins fans had hoped for back in 2007, Hamill logged minutes on the power play and penalty kill, demonstrating the kind of well-rounded skill set in a player the Bruins tend to have an affinity for.

Originally drafted for his offensive prowess, it was has been his reliability at the other end of the ice that has been Hamill’s strongest suit during his time in the NHL. Though it has been all of 10  games in which Hamill has seen NHL action over his career, it was not until Erik Cole’s goal late in the third period on Monday night that Hamill had yielded a minus in the NHL.

While he still may not be living up to the hype that surrounded him five years ago, the Bruins’ patience with Zach Hamill seems as though it is paying off as he is seemingly blossoming into a solid NHL contributor. There are still areas of his game that need to improve, such as his play away from the puck in the offensive end, but even if he is not fully ready to take a full time spot amongst the Bruins’ top-12 forwards, Hamill is becoming a versatile weapon that can play anywhere on the depth chart and in any situation. Another option for head coach Claude Julien in what has seemingly become an overstocked cupboard for the Boston Bruins.

Given this seemingly overabundance of NHL talent in the system, Hamill’s future in Boston remains to be seen. Though restricted, he is one of a bountiful crop of players on the Bruins roster set to become a free agent this off-season. His natural position of center is the Bruins’ strength and a logjam of talent at the moment and if he is on Boston’s roster for five more games this season, he would be required to pass through re-entry waivers if he were demoted to the AHL, a trip he may no longer survive.

Nearly labeled a bust and relegated to a journeyman’s life in the minors all of three months ago, Zach Hamill has picked the perfect time to come of age for the Boston Bruins. The time is coming quickly for the Bruins brass to decide Hamill’s fate. Regardless whichever direction the team decides to go in, it looks as though they finally cannot lose with Hamill. Either he remains with the team and gives them a solid option as the team’s 13th or 14th forward, continuing to strengthen the depth of what is currently the best team in the NHL, or he becomes a very good trade chip for Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli as a reliable and affordable option for most NHL teams.

A long awaited welcome to the Show for Zach Hamill.

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