His brother, Wacey, was a captain with the Medicine Hat Tigers and parlayed his four seasons in the Western Hockey League into a pro contract with the Ottawa Senators.
Red Deer Rebels prospect Joel Hamilton is very much interested in following a similar route.
“This is a good league and he (Wacey) showed me that there are a lot of good opportunities to be had here. So I thought I would come to camp with the Rebels to see what I could do and hopefully I can go down the same path,” the younger Hamilton, 17, said Monday, prior to a main-camp scrimmage at the Centrium.
Wacey Hamilton earned his stripes as a hard-nosed, productive performer who was willing to wander into the high-traffic areas despite his modest stature.
Joel, who checks in at five-foot-10 and 165 pounds, has the same drive and similar skills.
“We’re quite similar in the way we skate, the way we play and kind of the way we think,” said the younger Hamilton.
“If anything, I’d say my game is not quite as gritty as his.
“He’s maybe a bit faster and hits harder, and I’m more of a playmaker type.”
Hamilton, a fourth-round pick of the Rebels in the 2009 WHL bantam draft, spurned the midget AAA ranks and became a leading scorer with the Edge School — located just west of Calgary — prep team last season.
“We made a lot of trips to the United States to play in the Midwest Prep League. We toured some schools and played in front of some college scouts.
“It was nice to see what it’s like down there,” said Hamilton.
“I knew what I was getting into. I knew I had a really good coach (Tyler Dies) going in and I knew I would be in a position where I would get a lot of ice and a lot of opportunities. It was just kind of a good fit for me and playing the games in the U.S. helped me make my decision on where I want to play . . . to kind of see both sides. Overall, playing with the Edge School was a good experience.”
Hamilton, then, remains undecided as to whether he’ll compete in a WHL preseason game in September without the guarantee of full-time employment with the Rebels or accept a position in the junior A ranks and remain eligible for a U.S. college scholarship.
“I went to a camp in Spruce Grove (with the two-time defending AJHL champion Saints) and now I’ll wait for the camp in Red Deer to unfold a bit more before I make any rash decisions,” he said.
Hamilton admitted his first choice is to play with the Rebels this winter.
“I’m here to impress the coaches and if things work out I’ll end up here. For sure, I’d like to play in the WHL. It’s an opportunity I would not want to pass up.”
Clearly, Hamilton is not a given to earn a spot with the Rebels this fall, but GM/head coach Jesse Wallin likes what he’s seen of the Cochrane native in camp.
“He’s come in and played fairly well. He certainly hasn’t looked out of place,” said Wallin. “He’s a little under-sized but he makes up for that with his style of play. He gets his nose dirty and isn’t afraid to get involved. He’s a pretty skilled and intelligent player and for the most part that’s what we’ve seen from him in camp. He’s definitely put himself in the mix.”
As for Hamilton’s indecision towards playing in the WHL or in the junior A ranks . . .
“He’s like a lot of kids — they want to have their bases covered, but I think this is the route he wants to go,” said Wallin. “He wants to be a pro and he has a family history in the league.
“I think it’s more just a matter of him making sure he has a place to play if things don’t work out here. But if he just continues to take care of his play on the ice I think that will all work itself out.”
• Conner Bleackley, the Rebels’ first-round WHL bantam draft pick this year who didn’t show particularly well in Sunday’s rookie camp sessions, found himself on Team Silver Monday after toiling with Team Burgundy the first day.
Bleackley replaced Scott Feser on the opening-day sensation line, teaming up with Dexter Bricker and Cory Millette.
“We flip-flopped Bleackley and Feser, who continued to play well on the other team,” said Wallin. “Conner picked it up today and was noticeably better. He took control the way we know he can.”