In the summer of 2021, the New Jersey Devils landed the biggest free agent fish in the sea when Dougie Hamilton agreed to a seven year, $63 million deal. It was widely seen as a move that would help to strengthen the team’s back end, and push the Devils even closer to being competitive again. There was some concern about the back end of the deal, but most regarded it as the price to pay in order to get Hamilton’s signature. With Dougie in the fold, the Devils were ready to show the NHL that they were a team on the rise.
2021-22 however didn’t play out as the team or the fans would have liked it to. Injuries, inconsistent goaltending and other issues saw the team finish with the second worst record in the division, third worst in the conference and fifth worst in the league. Rather than a high finish, the club was looking at another high first round draft selection. Hamilton meanwhile had what could best be described as a “meh” individual season; he was one of the players who missed a good chunk of time (20 games) but still managed to accrue 30 points when in the lineup. It was far from his worst season, but was definitely not his best either.
Healthy again to start the current 2022-23 campaign, Hamilton has come roaring back with what many would probably call the best start to a season in his NHL career. Through 38 contests, Hamilton already has more points (33) than he did all of last season. Currently, he’s on pace for 71 points if he were to appear in every game. To give an idea of how well he is playing and contributing offensively, that would be 21 points better than his current career high, which he set with Calgary in 2016-17. For a defenseman who seemed to have already had some of his best seasons, Hamilton is showing off in what is arguably one of the prime years for a defenseman
Averaging just over 22 minutes per game this season, Hamilton is also putting up some great underlying numbers. According to Natural Stat Trick, his Corsi For is best among all Devils regular defensemen at 57.26%. He also has the highest expected goals for percentage as the only regular above 60%, although to be fair, Damon Severson and Brendan Smith are pretty close to. For those who prefer the eye test over the statistics test, while there have been a couple of gaffes from Hamilton (no NHL player is immune to them), Dougie in general has been very good. He’s been positionally sound, has jumped in offensively (obviously) when needed, and has also helped to play some pretty sound defense while mostly paired with Jonas Siegenthaler this season, who to be fair, does help with that part of the game.
Again, I wouldn’t say Hamilton had a bad debut season with the Devils, but it would be fair to state it wasn’t as impactful as we hoped. This season has been the impact we had all hoped for and then some. Hamilton is on pace for a career year, and even if his production slows down from the rate it has been at so far, more than likely he still hits a new career high in points, if not goals and/or assists as well. He is leading by example on the back end, and having in impact in all three zones out on the ice. If the Devils want to continue to be relevant to the NHL conversation in March and beyond, they need Dougie to keep up his strong play.
What are your thoughts on Dougie Hamilton’s bounce back 2022-23 campaign; is this what you had hoped for when the team signed him? Is he exceeding your expectations? Do you think Hamilton’s contributions will be what helps to propel the Devils back into the postseason? Do you think he winds up setting a new career high, or will he slow down to where his numbers align more with his previous season totals? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!