Sunday, July 25, 2010

Boston Bruins Prospect Series: #10 Zach Hamill

Zach Hamill, C
5-10, 180
September 23, 1988
Shoots: Right
Boston's 1st choice, eighth overall in 2007
Signing status: Signed through 2011

Talent Analysis

Physical: Another of Boston's undersized players who has struggled to build strength and add mass since the team spent a top-10 pick on him three years ago. He's listed at 5-11, 190 in some areas, but the height and weight measurements are highly generous, as he's progressed slowly in terms of adding the weight and being able to keep it on over the course of a season. Average skater who lacks a quick first step and high-end speed, although he's a better skater than he gets credit for simply because of his lack of size; if he were 6-1 or 6-2, he'd get high marks for his skating. Agility and lateral movement are fine; Hamill shows very good balance and is able to shake off hits and maintain puck control. Very good passer who has the ability to feather pucks through a maze of bodies and hit teammates in stride. Good stickhandler who slows the play down in order to set the table effectively. Can shoot the puck, but does not do so nearly enough, and that has shown in his AHL stats to date where he has tended to be a streaky finisher who scores in bunches only to go long stretches without finding the back of the net. Defensive game is coming along, but still needs work and will never be a strength of his.

Intangibles: Hamill's offensive hockey sense is first-rate, and is what got him drafted so high, when he led the WHL in scoring (albeit with just 93 points- one of the lowest totals in league history). He sees the ice better than just about any prospect in Boston's system not named Seguin or Colborne, and instinctively is able to sense the flow in the offensive end and make plays (see his participation in a Michael Ryder strike to earn his first NHL point in last season's finale against Washington). His compete levels are up and down: he had a sterling reputation coming out of junior, but his intensity has at times wavered in Providence. Hamill's challenges go beyond the physical, and he's had to work at getting comfortable in the AHL. His late-season callup to Boston does speak well to his progress, but he could be the odd-man out once again this year, as the Bruins seem to have too much depth at center in terms of talent and one-way contracts for him to have a legitimate chance of breaking camp with the team barring a rash of injuries. He will play hurt, and may have damaged his standing in his first pro season because he tried to soldier through after suffering a serious thumb injury he kept quiet. After making it worse, he had surgery that cost him the first couple of months of the 08-09 season and may have done lasting damage. Although showing a pain threshold and courage that was clearly admirable, a playmaker's best attributes are his head and hands, and it is not quite known if his thumb has degraded his ability to be the kind of scoring presence he was before the injury.

Boston Bruins 2010 Development Camp assessment
Graduated from development status; did not attend.

Hamill is clearly at a crossroads within the Bruins organization, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him dealt as part of a package at some point. He got off to a terrible start in his first full pro season because of the thumb injury and his confidence is always something the team has to take into account (his success last season noticeably coincided with when Providence brought junior linemate and close friend John Lammers on board). I've also heard rumors that the Bruins have already tried to trade him, so unless he has some kind of terrific showing out of left field, the chance of Hamill becoming the player the team envisioned when they drafted him is on the wane. At the same time, he's in the top-10 here, because having seen the way he played in that last (meaningless for both teams) regular season game, Hamill did not look out of place and he still has NHL potential. I still believe he has top-six upside because of the things he does so well that can't be taught, but that's more the heart talking to be honest. The head, after seeing him in action at the AHL and NHL levels, says that's going to be a real stretch barring some major sea change, and he may be more of a third- or fourth-liner and special teamer in the NHL if at all.

“I thought he was pretty poised with the puck, and he competed hard in our own end. He was pretty good; he was in the right position, I though the focus was good. Obviously, he got a helper there on that one goal and that’s what we wanted to see. We wanted to put him in some positions there where he had an opportunity to showcase his talent, and the power play was a part of it, and I thought he did well.”- Bruins head coach Claude Julien on Hamill, Washington, D.C.; April, 2010

“I was keeping it more simple, not forcing plays in the second half (of last season). Just kind of playing my game, keeping things simple and as plays opened up, I made them.”- Zach Hamill to; April 2010

Hamill Makes Most of Callup to B's

The Final Word
I thought about having David Warsofsky here at 10, but in the end went with the former first-rounder because when subjectively comparing the two in terms of overall skill, the former WHL scoring champ is a nose better. Hamill is the most polarizing prospect in Boston's system, but because of the recent draft and trades, he's fallen down the list a bit, which should make his critics happy (although I know some will complain that he's not low enough-- I can deal, though). Admittedly it's a tough call even having him in the top-10, but in the end, it comes down to the fact that I saw him in a live NHL setting and believe that he can be a player in this league, he's just not going to be an elite scorer. The problem with Hamill from a Bruins standpoint, is that because of where he is and who he is in terms of his development and size/style, he's more of a JAG (just another guy) vying for a spot that has to be filled by players ahead of him in the pecking order because of the economics of the game dictates that they'll be in Boston before Hamill unless he outplays them by such a wide margin as to force the team's hand into keeping him. He's got the skills to be something more than just a minor leaguer, so the question therefore becomes: will he get his shot in the Boston organization? My belief is probably not, but it is in GM Peter Chiarelli's best interest to keep showcasing him, which is what the cynical types will say happened in mid-April with his one NHL shot (to date).

I remember talking to him last fall and he told me he added seven pounds to his light frame in the offseason. One of my journalist colleagues overheard the discussion and later quipped to me, "The problem is, (Hamill's) actually proud of that," which underscores the problem he's had making a real impact in both the NHL and AHL thus far. If you're an undersized guy who isn't the best skater, then you'd better produce consistently. Hamill has yet to do that in Providence, so it looks like this could be the time to grant him a change of scenery (especially if it works as part of a package to unload one of the team's less desireable veteran player/contracts). Hamill is a good kid who's had to overcome a lot (read Fluto Shinzawa's post '07 draft article for more on that) in his young life, but it looks like he may simply be up against too much to make those bones in Boston.

To close out, he'll turn 22 just a few weeks before the start of the regular season, so to hear some folks writing him off heading into his third pro try is simply ridiculous. Hamill may make it, he may not. But his ultimate NHL future is not going to be decided this year, so regardless of what happens, he's still a player to watch. Fair is fair, and while he's not set the world on fire, judging Hamill simply because he was the eighth overall pick in a weak draft is an argument lacking in the proper context. Pragmatically speaking, however, he simply may not get the kind of opportunity he needs to make a statement in Boston, and therein lies the conundrum in ranking this player.


  1. Great stuff Kirk! Have really enjoyed this one can't wait for the BB2011DW! The Larsson/Couturier Countdown(TY BB). I went to Dev camp as well and thought Colborne looked great. I didn't watch the D-Men as much and don't know Suave and Hamill like you do but here goes my list. I think I would have gone post camp with Colborne(although hard to argue against Seguin), Seguin, Knight, Spooner, Caron(skating was not up to par with the others. I loved Knight going to the net I think that was something we were missing last year. Again, this has been a pleasure to read and keep up the great work! -Tim

  2. Thanks for the nice feedback, Tim.

    Your list is OK- just remember- you're only rating the guys you saw at camp. Camp was kool, but it was a pretty isolated setting...we need to see how these guys look when they start going up against NHL guys and legit AHL players as Marchand, Sauve and Hamill have.

    Things are looking good with the kids, but you can't get too excited about them based on D-Camp-- the real test will come in September.

    Thanks for reading!

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