Photo credit:Andy Devlin/Edmonton Oilers
70 Days Until The Season Begins
By Zach Laing7 months ago
Throughout the summer and into the fall, we’ll be counting down the days until the Edmonton Oilers begin their 2023-24 season with a daily trip down memory lane.
There are 70 days to go, so let’s continue the countdown with Curtis Hamilton, who wore that number during his one NHL game on April 9th, 2015.
A June 27, 2010 Edmonton Journal page details the Oilers’ second through seventh round draft picks.
It was the day after the Edmonton Oilers, for the second time in franchise history, had the first overall selection and used it at the draft. They selected the high-flying Taylor Hall from the Windsor Spitfires. The Oilers tried hard to make other moves that day, namely trading up to the second overall spot to draft the other T player, Tyler Seguin.
The Oilers had been torn down the middle on who to take. Head coach Stu MacGregor was steadfast in his belief that Seguin was the guy, but general manager Steve Tambellini and president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe felt otherwise.
And while the talk of the town was all about the newcomer in Taylor Hall, the Oilers had more than enough work to do on day two of the draft with three picks in the second round. The first was used to take a different centreman named Tyler, Tyler Pitlick, who was a projected late first-rounder with two-way acumen, at 31st overall.
Fifteen picks later the Oilers bolstered their blueline taking Slovakian-born WHL defenceman Martin Marincin who was fresh off a “starry 2009 world junior hockey tournament,” at 46th overall. The 48th pick saw the LA Kings take Tyler Toffoli, the Tyler the Oilers likely wish they took in the second round, and were on the clock against at 48th overall.
Enter Curtis Hamilton — a hard-nosed winger who scored 16 points in 26 WHL games with the Saskatoon Blades that year while missing a plethora more to two separate broken collarbone injuries.
“He’s a meat-and-potatoes guy,” Hockey Canada chief scout Al Murray told the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson. “He’s got to improve his quickness, but he’s a solid two-way player.”
The Oilers took a number of other names in that drat. Forward Ryan Martindale went in the third, defenceman Jeremie Blain in the fourth, and goaltender Tyler Bunz in the fifth. Edmonton had been strongly considering netminder Calvin Pickard in the second, but felt Bunz had similar upside and that they could get the Regina boy later in the draft.
In the sixth, defenceman Brandon Davidson — who had multiple stints with the Oilers — and forward Drew Czerwonka were taken. Finally, the seventh round saw the Oilers draft forward Kellen Jones, who along with his twin brother Connor would spend time with the organization’s AHL affiliate, as well as the late Kristians Pelss, who tragically passed in his home country of Latvia following his first pro year in the Oilers’ organization.
A June 27, 2010 Edmonton Journal page shows four of the Oilers’ draft picks from that year.
Hamilton would go on to return to the WHL for his draft plus-one year where he would have much success. He stayed healthy playing in 62 games scoring 26 goals and 82 points — both numbers that would be career highs at any level of puck. He went off and helped Canada win a silver medal at the World Juniors scoring four goals there, too.
Hamilton turned pro in 2011-12 and in what was no big surprise, was surprised to the AHL. With the Oklahoma City Barons he would appear in 41 games scoring five goals and 11 points struggling to gain traction early in the year, before finding his game near Christmas. A knee injury would force him out of the lineup in the March, but he recovered to play in two playoff games but worked mainly as a scratch.
“Curtis will be the first to admit he came to the American League and thought the transition would have been easier,” Oilers head coach Todd Nelson said of Hamilton’s first year in June 2012. “The American League is an eye-opener for junior and college players. You’re playing against men who are supporting their families and supporting them well. It’s a business. It’s unfortunate that Curtis got hurt in March, because he was playing his best hockey.”
That August, Nelson would praise Hamilton describing him as a “very intelligent player” who is a “big body.”
“He’s getting more comfortable on the walls, winning battles.”
Unfortunately for Hamilton, he would never work out as the power forward, bottom-six body they had hoped for. He would go on to play both of the 2012-13 seasons with the Barons scoring 13 goals and 25 points in 104 games.
Come the 2014-15 training camp, Hamilton was looking to make a mark in training camp as one of many competing for depth roles. His first pre-season game that year saw him lineup alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle taking three shots and laying two hits. Hamilton, however, would be assigned to the American League days later.
Make no mistake about it, though, as this year was different for Hamilton. He would post the best numbers of his American League career scoring 12 goals and 32 points in 63 games earning an invite to the Spengler Cup in Switzerland, where he played four games for team Canada.
Late in the season with the Oilers, months after the team fired Dallas Eakins and promoted Todd Nelson from the AHL, well out of the playoff picture, Hamilton got recalled to the big club for his first, and only taste of NHL action.
Curtis Hamilton in his lone NHL game on April 9, 2015. Andy Devlin/Edmonton Oilers
Hamilton would draw into the lineup for an April 9, 2015 game against the San Jose Sharks on the Oilers’ fourth-line replacing Matt Hendricks and played alongside Luke Gazdic and Rob Klinkhammer.
He would step across the boards for his first NHL shift minutes into the game, but drilled Sharks forward Bryan Lerg — who the Oilers signed as an NCAA free agent in 2008 — hard from behind and into the boards. Five minutes in the sin bin for Hamilton, but it was Lerg who got the last laugh scoring his lone NHL goal that night in what was the game-winner.
Hamilton’s tenure with the Oilers ended after that season as he went to pursue hockey overseason in Europe.
In 2015-16 he would score 30 points in 43 games with HC Sparta Praha in the Czechia league, before spending the following two years in the Finnish Elite League. In his stints there with various teams, he would cross paths with ex-Oilers goaltender Jussi Markkanen, and crossed paths with another ex-Oiler in Liam Reddox playing for the EIHL Belfast Giants in 2019-20.
I’m sure a few pints were poured over Oilers conversations along the way.
For Hamilton as a whole, injuries played a big problem in his development.
“I’ve had a lot of trouble with my knees… one that needed surgery, and I separated my shoulder,” Hamilton said the night of his first NHL game.
It was likely something that hampered his growth from a personal perspective, but we all know the struggles the Oilers had over the years developing prospects as a franchise a whole.
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Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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