New Jersey Devils: Can Dougie Hamilton Repeat Last Season’s Production?

Mar 1, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; New Jersey Devils defenseman Dougie Hamilton (7) during the second period against the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 1, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; New Jersey Devils defenseman Dougie Hamilton (7) during the second period against the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

In the 2022-23 season, Dougie Hamilton was a force for the New Jersey Devils. The veteran defenseman put up more points last season than any other season in his career. He tallied 74 points, with 22 goals and 52 assists, and held a 23 +/-. He was third in points on the Devils behind Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier.

Hamilton trailed only Erik Karlsson in goals scored by an NHL defenseman during the regular season. He was behind Karlsson, Josh Morrissey, and Quinn Hughes in points by a defenseman. He took 275 shots on goal during the regular season, more than any other season in his NHL career, and the most by any defenseman in 2022-23. Last season’s best-of-his-career numbers were no fluke. Hamilton has emerged as one of the top offensive defensemen in the NHL.

Prior to last season, Hamilton’s highest point total was 50, which happened in 2016-17. Granted, 2022-23 was the first time since 2018-2019 that Hamilton played a full slate of games. He missed significant time in 2019-20 and 2021-22 due to injuries, and the 2020-21 season was shortened due to COVID-19. Those three seasons made up much of Hamilton’s prime, accounting for his age 26, 27, and 28 seasons.

The best comparison of similar production to last season is 2019-2020. Despite playing in just 47 games, Hamilton recorded 40 points, with 14 goals and 22 assists. If he’d continued on this pace and had played the full season without injuries, Hamilton could have put up numbers like he did in 2022-23.

The 2020-21 NHL season was shortened to 56 games due to the pandemic. Hamilton played in 55 games with the Carolina Hurricanes and produced 42 points, 18 of which came during the power play. He tied winger Andrei Svechnikov with the third-most points on the team and had the most points of any defenseman on the roster.

Hamilton’s first season with the Devils in 2021-22 was underwhelming, largely due to a broken jaw and a broken toe. He totaled 30 points during the regular season. Although he played in 62 games, his contributions were limited as he dealt with a nagging toe injury throughout the season. Despite a strong start to the season, Hamilton’s production was inconsistent upon his return, and he just never quite reached his potential.

During his age 29 season, Devils fans saw what Hamilton can do. In 2022-23, he had many special moments. He was the guy who came through in big spots, providing seven game-winning goals. Notably, Hamilton scored the winning goal in OT during Round 1 Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This goal was huge in getting the Devils back into the series.

Hamilton underwent wrist surgery at the start of the 2023 offseason following an injury that occurred during the playoffs. We have to wonder if this will have an effect on his play early in the season. He’s expected to be ready for the start of the season, and we’ve seen nothing to indicate the opposite. With surgery comes the chance that a player won’t look exactly the same at first. Hopefully, he won’t miss a beat.

Expectations for the Devils are higher for 2023-24 after they arrived ahead of schedule in 2022-23 and launched the organization onto the NHL’s radar. Much like his team, expectations for Hamilton are high after the season he had last year.

The Devils’ blueline will look different without Damon Severson and Ryan Graves, but they have a strong group who will adjust to the growing pains. Hamilton will likely stay paired with Jonas Siegenthaler again this coming season. With Siegenthaler’s top-notch defense, they’re a solid duo. The other pairing in the top four should consist of Luke Hughes and John Marino.

Hamilton doesn’t play superb defense, but he doesn’t have to. Players like Siegenthaler and Marino have that covered. It would be ideal, though, for him to clean up the defense and limit mistakes. The Devils will score a lot in 2023-24, but keeping opponents from scoring is also important.

It’s possible that the prime Hamilton that fans saw last season would have had similar offensive production during his previous three seasons if he’d played 70 or more games and was healthy. Now, he looks to continue building upon last year. At 30 years old, Hamilton brings experience to the sixth-youngest team in the NHL.

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What should we expect Hamilton’s offensive production to look like in 2023-24? He should score at least 15 goals if he stays healthy and plays his best. It’s less likely he will hit 20 again, but it could happen. It might be unrealistic to expect more than 70 points again, but 60 or more points is certainly attainable for him. Expect him to continue providing an extra boost to the strong offense by joining the rush and logging big power play minutes.

The Devils are geared up and ready to keep growing. Hamilton should be a substantial factor in their success in 2023-24.