By Chris Wescott, on 05/25/2011

It took 19-year-old left-winger Curtis Hamilton a few seasons to catch on, but now he is one of the Edmonton Oilers’ top young prospects looking to break into the professional ranks next season.

Hamilton’s journey toward professional hockey began in 2006 when he was chosen by the Saskatoon Blades in the second round of the 2006 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft. Following his selection, he only saw action in two games during the 06-07 campaign. After that, steadily improved each year.

During the 07-08 campaign, his first in the WHL, Hamilton saw the ice in 68 games and scored 14 goals and recorded 13 assists. The next season, the Kelowna, B.C. native almost doubled his previous numbers.

Despite playing 10 fewer games, Hamilton netted 20 scores and 28 assists for 48 points and a respectable +28. Hamilton also gained valuable playoff experience, recording a goal and an assist in seven postseason games for Saskatoon.

Hamilton’s 09-10 efforts were cut short by a broken collarbone, but the forward still managed to score seven goals and nine assists in only 26 games. He returned to the Blades for the playoffs and scored two goals and an assist in five postseason games.

Hamilton’s offensive skills and pro-ready size (6-2 206 pounds), made him an attractive choice for the Oilers’ who used the 48th overall selection in the 2010 NHL entry draft on Hamilton. Following the draft, Hamilton remained in Saskatoon to complete his junior eligibility.

In the 10-11 season, Hamilton saw his best offensive output to date. He played in 62 games for the Blades and scored a career-high 26 goals and added a career-high 56 assists and a +48 on the year. In 10 playoff games, Hamilton scored four goals and seven assists, both were career-high for the playoffs.

Hamilton finished the past year with the seventh-best assist total in the WHL and the fifth-best plus/minus rating. He represented Canada at the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship where he produced four goals in seven games.

Hamilton signed an ATO in April and joined the Barons as they began their playoff series against the Hamilton Bulldogs.

“It was still a lot of fun,” Hamilton said. “I think, coming down here and just kind of getting familiar with the city and a lot of the guys on the team and the rink and what not. It was a good experience. It’s unfortunate that I didn’t get into a game but, at the same time, there’s a lot of good players that had been here all year… and they played awesome.”

Although he didn’t get the opportunity to play for OKC in a game, Hamilton observed a major difference in the AHL from juniors and is eager to make the transition to professional hockey next season.

“From junior to pro, there’s a big difference. Not only in the speed of the game or the way the puck moves, but also the strength of everyone. Everyone’s a lot stronger and like I said, the puck moves quicker. You always have to be ready. So it will be tough, but it will be a lot of fun too.”

One of Hamilton’s most redeeming traits as a prospect is that he has continued to get better and improve himself throughout his early career. Steady progress is encouraging, and Hamilton is always eager to learn and feels he’s ready for the next step.

“There’s lots to learn. How to take care of yourself, both on and off the ice, I think that’s a big part of the pro game and like I said, there’s lots to learn from the whole experience.”

 “I feel like I can play at this level and I’m confident in that. I just have to go home and make sure I have a strong summer of training and make sure I come ready to play here in the fall.”

Hamilton is eager to begin his preparations for next season and has a goal in mind to make things tough on the Edmonton organization to keep him around.

 “Have a good summer here, train hard, and just kind of come in to camp with an open mind and make it tough on the coaching staff on trying to keep me up at the next level.”

2011-2012 season tickets are now on sale. Call 405-232-GOAL to reserve yours today.

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