TORONTO - Travis Hamonic would've had to blow Canada's management group away with his play to make the Sochi Olympic team. Still, the New York Islanders defenceman was at orientation camp in August 2013, which meant something.
"I certainly felt like I was deserving of it," Hamonic said.
Almost two seasons later, Hamonic is proving it on a deep blue-line for the first-place Islanders. The native of St. Malo, Man., has become a more well-rounded player in part because of that camp experience.
As one of the youngest players in Calgary, Hamonic asked questions of Shea Weber, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, among others, and tried to use that advice in his own maturation process in the NHL.
"I certainly went in with my eyes and ears open and my mouth shut and tried to learn as much as I could from the older guys," Hamonic said Monday. "When Hockey Canada shows that kind of confidence in you, you want to try and take it over to your own game and try to prove you belong."
Hamonic remains a strong, right-handed-shooting shutdown defenceman but has added a bit more offence to his game. With 25 points on four goals and 21 assists, he's one off his career high.
"Travis, it doesn't surprise me where he's at," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "He's one of those guys that competes extremely hard every day, whether it's a practice or a game, and that's what you want to see in your players."
Instead of thinking too much about joining the rush, Hamonic has been situationally aware and less afraid to take chances.
"Skating is probably one of my better attributes that I have," the 24-year-old said. "I think I'm just trying to find a way to use it to my advantage a little bit more often and not get caught up the ice and when I have an opportunity to go, just go."
Hamonic credits confidence and some of that came from Hockey Canada.
Earlier in his career, someone told Hamonic to be really good at one thing, and he still believes shutting down opponents is his "bread and butter." But to earn more minutes in competition and in concert with the likes of Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk, Hamonic has to do more.
"I certainly think that there's more there that I can get into offensively and try to round out my game," Hamonic said. "This is season No. 5 for me and every season I've tried to develop a little bit more and try to make a bit more of a name for myself."
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