TORONTO– As hockey fans anticipate next weekend’s 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs went ahead and resigned LW Ryan Hamilton to a one year contract.
Hamilton’s new contract is reportedly worth, but not confirmed at, $525 000 and will be a two-way contract making it very possible he could rejoin the Toronto Marlies. Not much at this point is clear as to who GM Brian Burke will have on his Leafs roster for the 2011/12 season but the 6 year pro will be given the chance he rightfully earned to attend training camp in the fall.
Standing 6’2” and 219LBS. Hamilton has spent the last three seasons with the Marlies of the AHL. Unfortunately, injuries over the last two limited his games played to less than 50 in both; hurting his productivity in a large way. On the positive side, after missing 34 games between November 12th and Jan 25th, he re-entered the line up to play all of the remaining 32 games on schedule. In fact, when the Marlies faltered late in the season to miss the play-offs, it was Hamilton who kept the post-season hope by notching seven goals in the final seven games of the season.
“It was tough coming back from an injury like that,” Hamilton said when he returned to the line-up. “I had never experienced a knee injury before so it kind of set me back,” he added.
The knee injury brought much disappointment to Hamilton as he hoped to make it a positive year, but signing back on for another year means he will have another opportunity.
“I wanted to have a real strong year this year and maybe even get a chance up with the Leafs but stuff happens so I worked hard during the rehab,” he said after a March 8th game at the Ricoh Coliseum.
Hamilton spent much of his junior career plagued with injuries as well before bursting out in 2006 with 46 goals in 63 games as a member of the Barrie Colts in the OHL. His surge of health and production earned him a contract with the Minnesota Wild, who then assigned him to their AHL affiliate the Houston Aeros. His second season in Houston showed he could handle working both ends of the rink as he ranked second on the team in goals with 20 and a plus-13. During his third season down south, Hamilton was acquired by the Leafs in a deal for FW Robbie Earl.
Reflecting back on when he found out about the trade, the 26 year old stated,
“It was special. First of all, being traded I had never really experienced that before but as soon as it set in that I was going to be part of the Leafs organization and coming back home, it was extremely exciting coming back to play in front of family and friends.”
Thinking about his time with the Aeros, Hamilton is nothing but thankful for the opportunity he was given and what came from it.
“(I) spent a good couple years down in Houston and it actually worked out well because I met my wife down there so the experience was worth it.”
When Hamilton discusses the idea of playing at home in front of family, he chuckles because of how many places have been called home before.
“I lived in a suitcase. My dad grew up in a military family so I’m assuming that rubbed off on him. We got transferred a lot with his work so we lived in Chilliwack BC for eight years, Calgary Alberta for one year, Ingersoll Ontario for 10 and Whitby/Oshawa Ontario for the rest so I kind of played everywhere.”
One thing’s for sure, when it comes to Hamilton and his work ethic, no one would complain about his efforts. From head coach Dallas Eakins, to teammates in the dressing room, all season it was nothing but praise for the veteran who currently wears the A on his upper chest. Hard work is something Hamilton is used to.
“I think I worked on every single type of farm,” he said about his time spent before playing hockey. “A lot of my buddies back in BC were pig and chicken farmers so I did a lot of that. I loved golf so I worked the golf courses as a back shop and even in junior hockey you needed a job to make some money for your training so I definitely had a lot of jobs.”
It will be interesting come fall to see if Hamilton can do what Tim Brent did last season and surpass expectations by earning a spot on the third or fourth line with the Leafs. If he doesn’t take a spot out of camp, and he stays healthy, it is certain he could have a call-up when the Leafs need it.
As for his importance to the Marlies, the departure of veteran Alex Foster makes the opportunity to be named captain a possibility especially when he sums up his style quite simply,
“Lead by example. If things need to be said it’s said, but it’s just a matter of leading by example.”
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