Junior teammates will share spotlight on draft day

  • Article by: BRIAN STENSAAS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 24, 2011 - 1:02 AM

Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Strome, stars for Niagara in the Ontario Hockey League, will be early picks Friday.

Before a couple of hundred or so media members were let loose upon them Thursday afternoon, top prospects for the NHL draft got a chance to tour Xcel Energy Center away from the spotlight.

It was one last chance to wonder before it all becomes a reality Friday night in front of an overflow crowd and a national television audience.

"I kind of pictured it, imagined it," defenseman Dougie Hamilton said. "I like to do that; dream about different situations. I don't know what color my jersey is going to be, but it's exciting to think about."

While most of the top prospects are familiar with each other after years of playing in elite-level competition, Hamilton is in the unique boat of sharing it all with a teammate.

He and forward Ryan Strome guided Niagara to the Ontario Hockey League's Eastern Conference finals this season.

Now, they're preparing for the next level together.

"It doesn't help for anything like this," Hamilton said, giving a nod to the moderate media scrum around him. "But definitely on-ice we had a good chemistry and helped each other out a lot. And, yeah, it's pretty cool having someone like a teammate in this room."

Most mock drafts have the IceDogs pair going among the first seven picks in the draft.

"It's humbling and I'm soaking it all in," Strome said. "I don't look at this stage as a relief. I look at it as another mountain to climb. It's all celebration Friday, than after that it's all back to business."

He has done plenty already.

The 6-foot, 175-pound Strome finished third in the OHL with 106 points (33 goals, 73 assists) in 65 games this season, leading Niagara to a franchise-record 45 victories.

Nothing, though, was more impressive than his seventh goal of the season. In that effort, Strome took the puck at center ice, snuck by a defenseman by passing the puck through his own legs and stuffed it into the net along the near post.

The play became an instant hit on YouTube, with more than 300,000 views.

"I've seen it a couple of times, that's for sure," Strome said.

Hamilton is no slouch, either, with athleticism flowing through his veins.

The son of two former Olympians -- mom was a basketball player, dad a rower -- and the brother of San Jose's fifth-round pick last summer, Hamilton has grown to 6-4 and 187 pounds. He scored 58 points (12-46) last season.

Among the players Hamilton said he models his game after is the Wild's Brent Burns. Hamilton would no doubt fit in well here, but Minnesota likely won't get the chance to draft him.

"If it's not one in the top five and somebody loves me at No. 6 I'll be very happy with that," Hamilton said.

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