Yale hockey’s all-time scoring king has pulled off another last-second goal.
After six nerve-wracking months of waiting to find out if professional hockey was in his future, Jeff Hamilton ’01 received the call of his dreams — from the New York Rangers Sept. 9. The former Bulldog forward signed a minor league contract with the Rangers’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, on the eve of training camp.
“It was definitely nice to be signed finally,” Hamilton said. “After the [International Hockey League] folded, a lot of hockey players don’t have jobs.”
And for a while, it seemed as if Hamilton would join those ranks. But recently, both the Rangers and the N.Y. Islanders showed interest in the man whose lightning fast and powerful shot obliterated the Yale record books. When the Islanders pulled out of contention last Sunday, the Rangers pulled the trigger and signed Hamilton.
“I think the reason it took so long [for a team to sign Hamilton] was because people have always doubted his size,” Yale hockey head coach Tim Taylor said. “But throughout his career, he has proven the experts wrong about his size. Nobody ever expected him to have the college career he did.”
The 5-foot-10-inch, 188-pound Hamilton said he is determined to reach the NHL, no matter how long it takes him to do so. But he is well aware of the adjustments he will have to make.
“It will be a big jump, but I think I am ready for it,” Hamilton said. “I’ll be fine offensively. I just have to work on my defense, and after a couple of months that should come around as well.”
Nor does Taylor think the man he has described as “quite possibly the best offensive player in Yale history” will have trouble adjusting.
“Jeff [Hamilton] was one of the most skillful and talented college hockey players in the country,” Taylor said. “He is special because he has always been able to adjust.”
A three-time first-team All-America selection, Hamilton finished in the top five nationally last year in both points per game (1.72) and goals per game (0.76). He became the school’s all-time leading scorer Feb. 23 at Ingalls Rink with a second period goal against Vermont. Taylor sees no reason for Hamilton to become less effective offensively in the AHL — or the NHL for that matter.
“I have great confidence in his ability to score,” Taylor said. “He can and will produce points at the professional level.”
Taylor said that while many possess the same basic skills that Hamilton has, the Englewood, Ohio, native is a rare breed when it comes to intangibles.
“As coaches we talk about enigmatic qualities certain players have, such as a knack for scoring,” Taylor said. “Jeff Hamilton has that knack. He is a goal scorer and a point producer. Many people have the same fundamentals, but very few have his scoring touch. He shoots the puck harder and more accurately than most others.”