SAN JOSE – Freddie Hamilton says he’s ready for the NHL.
His head coach likes that self-assurance.
A power play goal while playing on a line with Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau certainly doesn’t hurt his chances.
[RELATED: Sharks beat Coyotes 3-2 in OT]
“He’s playing like he wants to make the team,” Todd McLellan said after the Sharks beat Phoenix, 3-2 in overtime, on Saturday night at SAP Center.
“The coaching staff feels comfortable with him, so things are going the right way. But, now we’ve got to take it a step further with him and make sure he can play against full rosters. Whatever happens over the next 10 days will play itself out. Will Freddie get a chance to play here? Maybe.”
Hamilton, a 21-year-old forward chosen by the Sharks in the fifth round of the 2010 draft, is coming off of a 26-point season with AHL Worcester, scoring 13 goals and adding 13 assists in 76 games. He was the only player to suit up for every game.
A high-octane offensive machine Hamilton is not, so playing a smart, two-way game is paramount. If he continues trending upward in the eyes of the coaching staff, that could make players like fourth liners Andrew Desjardins or James Sheppard nervous about their places on the roster. Hamilton finished with two shots and three hits in more than 17 minutes of ice time against the Coyotes on Saturday, including power play and penalty kill responsibilities.
“He is pushing some others,” McLellan said.
Hamilton’s goal came after he positioned himself in front of the crease and backhanded a loose puck over Phoenix’s Mike Smith in the first minute of the second period. Couture and Marleau earned the assists, with Couture redirecting Marleau’s pass towards the net before Hamilton found a handle on it.
“After these two exhibition games and the scrimmages, I think I’ve proven myself I belong,” Hamilton said. “I’ve got to just keep working hard.”
Although he hadn’t practiced at all on the Couture line in training camp, Hamilton impressed the Sharks’ star center with his play.
“He played well,” Couture said. “Strong on pucks, strong on the forecheck, good in the D-zone. He’s a smart player and he’s very reliable.”
McLellan clarified that if Hamilton does in fact make the roster, it won’t be as a press box spectator. The Toronto native will be on the ice.
“I find he’s responsible all over the rink,” McLellan said. “But, his responsibility in all three zones, to get ice time in this league, especially as a rookie, you have to feel confident about putting people on the ice. Right now, I feel good about putting him out there.”