Whitby born, Ryan Hamilton has signed a 1-year, 2-way deal worth $500k (at NHL level) with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Hamilton, who came to the Leafs organizationÂ in aÂ tradeÂ with the NHL Wild (AHL Aeros) duringÂ the 08/09 season,Â was scheduled to test the free agent market if unable to resign with Toronto.
Though he finished the season leading the team in goals and among the top-five in assists, Hamilton’s contribution to the Toronto AHL club is far deeper than what can be recorded onÂ score card. Ryan’s high sense of responsibility, eagerness for the puck and balanced two-way play is evident by his mild minus-three rating on a team that didn’t see anyone over plus-four and several passed minus-fifteen. During a frustrating period of time that saw many of the Marlies regulars sidelined with injury, including team captain Ben Ondrus, Hamilton stepped up as a vocal presence on the bench, keeping spirits high and tempers low. Ryan himself was not prone to the injury bug, spending 33 games out of action to recuperate after heart ablation surgery due to an irregular beat. During his rehab period of nearly three-months,Â Hamilton vowed to stay close with the team, active in the communityÂ and wasÂ often spotted chatting with fans after the game.
With the window before free agency closing, and many of the regular faces on the Marlies up for renewal – including Ondrus, Foster, Oreskovic and Deveaux – Dave Nonis and the Toronto front office will soon define the direction that the Leafs development club will take in the seasons to come. With a strong likelyhood of two, if not three of the expiring quartet not staying with the Marlies passed July 1st, doors have opened for Hamilton to advance his role with the team and take on top-line minutes for the majority of the coming season. TheÂ simple fact that Hamilton was the first toÂ be inked is proof of where the interests of Nonis lay.
Given he stays healthy, Ryan has the talent and work ethic to put up career numbers this coming season, toppingÂ his 20 goals and 19 assists over the 72 games he played with Houston in 2007-2008. With his relationship with the team and coaching staff, his strong play last season and post-season history, it will be surprising if he does not debut on the opening night lineup with an ‘A’ sewn onto his jersey. But I am sure that is not the first thing on Ryan’s mind. Hamilton will wed his Texan sweetheart during the off-season before heading back to Toronto to begin training.