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About Last Season: Dougie Hamilton Performance Review and Grade

At the time of his injury, Dougie Hamilton was having a Norris Trophy caliber season for the Hurricanes.

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Columbus Blue Jackets Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Dougie Hamilton 2019-20 By The Numbers

  • Age: 27
  • NHL Seasons: 8
  • Games Played: 47
  • Scoring: 14 goals, 26 assists, 40 points
  • Average Ice Time: 17:48 ES, 2:10 SH, 3:10 PP
  • Contract: Completed year five of a six-year deal with a $5.75 AAV

Following a hot finish and strong playoff run in his first season in Carolina, Dougie Hamilton spent 47 games during this season showing the Hurricanes exactly what they have in him: a bona fide No. 1 defenseman, perhaps the best offensive defenseman the team has ever had.

It can’t be emphasized enough how strong a first half Hamilton had for the Canes, and how much of a loss it was when a fractured fibula suffered Jan. 16, which required surgery, ended his season prematurely: With all respect to Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Andrei Svechnikov and Jaccob Slavin, Hamilton had been the Canes’ best player to that point.

At the time of his injury, Hamilton’s 14 goals ranked second among all NHL defensemen, and his 40 points ranked fourth. Over a full season, Hamilton was on pace for 24 goals, 46 assists and 70 points, all of which would have shattered his career highs.

We all know the merits (or lack thereof) of plus/minus, but a +30 rating (tied for third in the league) for a defenseman playing 23:18 per game in front of middling (at best) goaltending is wildly impressive. Hamilton drove possession at an elite rate with a 57.7 Corsi-For %, despite starting a modest (for his talents) 52.1% of his shifts in the offensive zone.

At the time of his injury, Hamilton was very likely at least on track to be a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the NHL, and he and Jaccob Slavin could make a strong argument for the best defensive pairing in the league. Hamilton had been nominated for the All-Star Game for the first time in his career, but was replaced by Slavin after the injury.

Hamilton was obviously a key contributor at even strength, but also on the power play with two goals and 10 assists, and playing over two minutes per game on a penalty kill that finished fourth in the NHL at 84%.

While the Canes actually managed to play the games without Hamilton at roughly the same clip as the games with him, there’s no debating the impact it had. Throughout that first half of the season, he was the straw that stirred the drink, quarterbacking the Canes’ offense at both even strength and on the power play at an elite level.

It’s worth noting that Hamilton’s shooting percentage this year (8.2) was a career high, though his previous career high (6.9) came in his first season with the Canes, so it could be that he’s simply capitalizing on the high volume of quality chances that Carolina’s system and increasingly valuable forward corps generates.

Going forward, Hamilton has one year left at his bargain rate of $5.75 million before becoming an unrestricted free agent. And extending him should be priority 1B for Don Waddell, next to reupping Svechnikov, who’s deal will run out at the same time (though he’ll be an RFA). Hamilton won’t be cheap to lock up, and it won’t be easy with the Canes’ other deals and the likely impact of the pandemic on the salary cap, but elite offensive defensemen don’t grow on trees, and he should be a focus.

In the here and now, with Hamilton progressing, it was thought that he might be on track to return around the start of a normal Stanley Cup Playoff run in April. If there’s a silver lining to the shut down for the Canes, it’s that Hamilton is, by all reports, good to go for the qualifying round preceding the 2020 playoffs.

If he’s able to shake off the rust during training camp and pick up where he left off, he’ll be a massive addition.