By Jon Abbott || AHL On The Beat Archive
It has hardly been the easy road that Ryan Hamilton has skated down in his hockey career, but past experiences have all played a part into who he is now: a dominant, talented, hard-working captain for the Toronto Marlies.
Years ago he broke onto the junior hockey scene with the Moose Jaw Warriors in the WHL. However that experience would be short lived. The Oshawa native later called Ontario home again, after changing teams within the CHL and moving to the OHL, joining the Barrie Colts. Due to injuries and health issues, he was unable to put together complete seasons during his first two years with the club, but he played in 63 games in his final campaign and totaled a career highs of 46 goals and 72 points. Just like that, the adjustment to life in a new league was over, so was his junior eligibility… and he remained undrafted.
His hard work and stick-with-it attitude would pay off though, as the Minnesota Wild found favor in his perseverance and stepped up to the plate, signing Hamilton as a 21-year-old. His pro hockey career would start in the AHL, in Houston. It was his second year with the Aeros that showed what potential he could carry at the pro level. Hamilton put up 39 points, 20 of them goals, and included 117 penalty minutes.
Like any player who has made it in the professional ranks, the NHL dream lived on for Hamilton. Although Ryan showed in his sophomore year that he could be a versatile, multi-purpose player with Houston, the Wild did not have a spot for him and he would later be traded.
The positive route is still how Hamilton addressed the situation and how could he not? He was coming home again to play in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization and be part of the Toronto Marlies, who were headed for the playoffs.
It would be the start of what is now five seasons in blue and white for Hamilton. Over his first three, he started to put together a body of work that may have been unnoticed by some, but not by his coaching staff.
At the start of the 2011-2012 campaign, Ryan Hamilton was named captain of the Toronto Marlies and it truly was the start of hard work paying off for him and his team. Hamilton would be asked to represent his club at the All-Star game in Atlantic City, along with head coach Dallas Eakins.
Months later, Ryan Hamilton was tapped to make his NHL debut, for his hometown team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, after almost 6 years of pro hockey and lifetime of dedication.
It would be a pair of NHL games, as it turns out, giving him a chance to experience what home ice meant at the Air Canada Centre.
With that spark, later that year he set a new career-high with 25 goals to lead his team and in his first year with the ‘C’ on his chest, he would help take the club all the way to the Calder Cup Finals.
Playing in a hockey hotbed like Toronto brings plenty of responsibility both on and off the ice. While meeting Ryan only once would tell you that his character stands out of that of a true gentleman, he would continually go over and beyond team commitments to take time for fans and those in the community—at a hospital, the rink, even the grocery store—to give back and illustrate how proud he is of his hockey team and who they play for.
“His parents have done an amazing job raising this young man and he is everything that, not only our team, but the Leafs organization want in a person,” said Eakins. “His stature, his relationship with the community, the relationship with his teammates and what he brings everyday on the ice in practice and in games.
“Our organization is extremely proud of him. He’s put himself at the top of the list of every conversation when a call-up is going to come up.”
Now in this seventh pro season, it is another of what has become a routine for Hamilton. He returned to the AHL All-Star game, only to record a hat-trick and bring home the MVP trophy. He returned to the NHL with the Maple Leafs and he will return to the history books of the AHL. By year’s end he will be the all-time leader in points and goals in Toronto Marlies franchise history. Recently he set a new career-high, recording his 26th goal of the season as part of a hat-trick night, giving him back-to-back 25+ goal campaigns.
“All the credit to my teammates, that’s what it is all about. All the credit goes to them,” Hamilton said of the milestone. “I just kind of finished off some nice plays by them. I’m glad we got the win. With team success, guys are able to have individual success as well.”
There you go again, Ryan, leading by example.