SAN JOSE -– The situation is a familiar one for Freddie Hamilton.
The Sharks prospect was among the team’s final roster cuts in 2013, getting a long look with the NHL club before he was ultimately reassigned to Worcester after Matt Nieto beat him out for a spot. One year later, he’s again amongst a group of youngsters making a push to be on the ice for opening night.
“Just trying to do whatever I can to earn any spot on the team,” Hamilton, a 2010 fifth round draft pick of the Sharks, said on Thursday.
The Sharks have made it known publicly –- and to their players –- that roster spots are there for the taking. If a younger, established kid outplays an NHL regular, he’ll be the guy that will wear the jersey.
At the same time, while Hamilton could be pushing an established guy like a Tyler Kennedy or an Adam Burish, he also has to fend of competition from underneath by guys like Chris Tierney, Barclay Goodrow and Daniil Tarasov.
In other words, it may be sink-or-swim time for the 22-year-old when it comes to an NHL career in San Jose.
“His time is now, and he’s been told that,” Todd McLellan said. “He’s got to evolve and go, and Freddie is a smart player. He’s positioned well and you can trust him on the ice. I’d like to see him engage with a little more conviction. It’s coming. He showed it already in camp, so can he maintain it and take it to the NHL? We’ll find out.”
Hamilton, who led AHL Worcester in scoring last season with 43 points in 62 games, realizes he still has something to prove.
“There’s a lot of good players here that are competing for spots. I’m got to bring my best, and I think everyone knows that,” he said. “It makes it exciting and makes it more rewarding to whoever gets that spot. There’s still a lot left in camp, so we’ll see what happens.”
Hamilton got a taste of NHL life in 11 games last season, and even started his first career game in Detroit on Oct. 21 on a line with Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl, in place of an injured Brent Burns. While he didn’t look out of place in terms of keeping up with the pace of the game, he didn’t do anything of note, either. He’s still looking for his first career NHL point.
He was asked what his biggest takeaways were from last season.
“That I can play here, and I know I’m better than last year,” he said. “I’m hoping that I can contribute a little bit more than I did last year, and that’s my goal. I was happy with how I did last year, but definitely can bring a lot more this year.”