Rookie defenceman commits to Vermont
Wednesday, Nov 30, 2011 06:00 am
An Okotoks Oilers defenceman wanted nothing more than to take the next step in his hockey career with the University of Vermont, fortunately for him the feeling was mutual. Oilers rookie blueliner Robert Hamilton wasn’t short on potential suitors from the NCAA ranks, but when the Vermont Catamounts aggressively pursued him with a hockey scholarship his decision was straightforward. “There were a few other schools (interested), but it was for sure my top choice and they came after me hard so I went down there first and fell in love with the place,” Hamilton said. The 17-year-old defenceman was brought to the school’s campus in Burlington, Vermont on a fly-down weekend in order to get a feel for the area, the school and its hockey program. Hamilton said he spent the weekend at a Catamounts game, hanging out with the team and getting a tour of the school’s facilities before getting down to business. “On Monday I had a meeting with the coach and with the academic advisor and talked to them and I was out of there on Monday at noon,” said Hamilton, who wanted to sleep on the decision. “I came home and really thought about it and talked to my parents and asked for a couple more people’s opinions and then once I felt really sure on it I committed.” Hamilton’s decision was eased by a first-year Catamount with significant ties to the Okotoks community. Oilers all-time leading scorer Kyle Reynolds accepted a scholarship to the NCAA school last year and advised Hamilton to do the same. “I stayed with him the first night and he said it was probably one of the best decisions he’d ever made in his life,” said Hamilton of Reynolds. “He’s loving it there and getting a lot of playing time as a freshman. I’m hoping I have the same experience and I’m sure I will.” The Calgary native received further guidance from a family member with experience in the Eastern College Athletic Conference, where the Vermont Catamounts belonged to before the NCAA’s realignment moved the school to the Hockey East Conference this season. “I asked one of my cousins who went to Dartmouth and he had really good things to say about (Vermont) and all the people I talked to in the hockey world had positive things to say about it whether it be hockey wise or school wise,” Hamilton said. Vermont has a sterling reputation as both an academic institution and as a hockey program that develops players for the next level. Notable Catamount alumni include reigning National Hockey League Vezina and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins as well as Stanley Cup winners in Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis and Chicago’s Patrick Sharp. Oilers head coach James Poole said Hamilton’s performance at the AJHL Showcase in Spruce Grove on Sept. 28-29 is when his stock as a hockey prospect really took off. “He had a very good Showcase and really showed the potential he has a player and I think a lot of scouts noticed that,” Poole said. Hamilton said he wasn't short on options as schools interested in him included the likes of Minnesota-Duluth, Alaska-Anchorage, UMass-Lowell and Providence. The Oilers coach said Hamilton's tantalizing skating and puck-moving ability is what drove so much interest from the collegiate ranks.
"A lot of the players they seem to be interested in or offering scholarships to are players that are dynamic in terms of their skating aspect and Robert is that." Poole said. "He’s got great feet, his agility is very good, he’s smart and aggressive in terms of jumping up-ice with and without the puck and I think the scouts really saw that he’s got that potential, that skating ability to play at that faster pace.” Hamilton said he's not sure exactly when he'll be rushing the puck up the ice for the Catamounts. He's contractually agreed to attend Vermont either in the fall of 2012 or the following year, but has not yet decided when he'll be moving to the Green Mountain State.