AHL stars still shining: Jeff Hamilton

A four-time 20-goal scorer in the American Hockey League, Jeff Hamilton’s road to the NHL is one of perseverance. He was a standout college player at Yale, twice named a finalist for the prestigious Hobey Baker Award. But undrafted and unsigned, he spent his rookie season in Finland before latching on with the New York Islanders organization.

After putting up modest totals in his first season in Bridgeport, Hamilton’s 2003-04 season was a memorable one for several reasons. He was one of the AHL’s top scorers in the first half of the season. He made his National Hockey League debut with the Islanders on Dec. 2. He was voted to the PlanetUSA starting lineup for the 2004 AHL All-Star Classic in Grand Rapids.

But Hamilton soon suffered a serious eye injury that forced him to miss 13 games. His first “action” back from the injury was in at the All-Star Classic, and he put any doubts about his vision to rest by hitting all four targets in the accuracy shooting event during the AHL All-Star Skills Competition. The next night, Hamilton scored a goal and registered two assists in the All-Star Game.

Hamilton went on to lead the American Hockey League with 43 goals that season, including an AHL-record 15 game-winning scores. He also ranked second in the league with 20 power-play goals.

The Englewood, Ohio, native spent the 2004-05 season with the Hartford Wolf Pack, where he finished second on the team with 52 points (23g, 29a) in 60 games. He returned to Bridgeport in 2005-06 and tallied 50 points in just 39 games, and added eight points in 13 games with the Islanders.

Unsigned again heading into this season, Hamilton was a training-camp invitee with the Chicago Blackhawks and turned a most impressive preseason into a full-time spot in the Windy City. Heading into Friday night’s game against the Maple Leafs, Hamilton has 10 goals and nine assists for 19 points in 31 games, good for second on the team in goals and fourth in points.

Of the 394 players to take part in the AHL All-Star Classic since 1995, more than 93 percent have competed in the National Hockey League, including Patrice Bergeron, Brad Boyes, Daniel Briere, Jonathan Cheechoo, Pavol Demitra, Rick DiPietro, Patrik Elias, Ray Emery, Miikka Kiprusoff, Kari Lehtonen, Ryan Miller, Dwayne Roloson, Marc Savard, Martin St. Louis, Jason Spezza, Eric Staal, Steve Sullivan and Kyle Wellwood.

The 2007 Rbk Hockey AHL All-Star Classic will take place at Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto, home of the AHL’s Marlies. The event features the 2007 CCM AHL All-Star Skills Competition on Sunday, January 28 (7:00 ET) and the 2007 AHL All-Star Game on Monday, January 29 (7:00 ET), and will be televised live on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada and on a network of regional broadcast partners in the United States.

For ticket and event information, visit http://www.torontomarlies.com/news/07allstargame.asp