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Junior coach on possible Isles picks Hamilton, Strome

Of the handful of players the Islanders are considering with their No. 5 overall pick, two were teammates with Niagara of the Ontario League: Defenseman Dougie Hamilton and center Ryan Strome, both who have been to Long Island for visits within the last few days.

I spoke with Marty Williamson, the GM and coach of Niagara, earlier today.

Williamson said the two top-10 prospects helped elevate a team that was "picked to finish in the middle of the pack" in the OHL this season to a squad that reached the league semifinals.

"That's rare for two young kids to do that," Williamson said. "It's usually the 19 and 20-year-olds who lead the teams here."

Hamilton and Strome aren't even yet 18 -- Hamilton turns 18 on Friday and Strome turns 18 on July 11.

Of the two, Hamilton is rated higher by the NHL's Central Scouting Service. At 6-4, 187, he has great skating ability and was a leader in many ways for Williamson.

"He was on our top penalty-killing unit, our No. 1 power play unit. The amount of ice time he logged as a 17-year-old this season was incredible," Williamson said. "When we had a lead late, he'd be out there to preserve it.

"He's an amazingly focused young man. He had a 97-percent grade average in school here this year, which is remarkable given all the travel we do. He's intensely focused on what his body needs to recover from games, how to stay in good condition, and he thinks the game as well as anyone."

Hamilton's brother, Freddie, a Niagara teammate, was a fifth-round pick of the Sharks last year. Their parents are athletes as well: Doug was a Canadian Olympic rower and Lynn was a Canadian Olympic basketball player.

And Williamson, at least, thinks Dougie Hamilton will be an Islander.

"It's just a hunch," he said, "but I don't see him falling past the Islanders at No. 5. It seems like a good fit."

Strome, who was third in the OHL with 106 points this season, is an opposite personality to Hamilton.

"He's a happy-go-lucky hockey geek, basically," Williamson said. "He knows everything that's going on in our league and the NHL -- trades, players, everything. He's always got a smile on his face."

Strome went from being ranked 19th to 8th by the CSS at year's end; he drew some world-wide attention for this goal he scored in October and he capitalized on the attention he got.

"Once he scored that goal and it blew up a bit on YouTube," Williamson said, "he really kept on producing for all the scouts that came down. He had a very consistent season."

Williamson said he sees his two players going in quick succession -- "somewhere between 5 and 7. I don't think Ryan lasts much beyond Winnipeg," he said.

As for an NHL perspective, one league personnel director whose team doesn't pick in the top 10 said this about Hamilton:

"He'll be an NHL defenseman for the next 15 years. Someone's going to get a good one there."

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