The 2023 version of our Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25 countdown list begins with a lanky, collegiate defensemen.
#22 Dillon Hamaliuk, LW
2022 Ranking: n/a
Age: 22 (DOB: October 30, 2000)
Acquired Via: trade with San Jose
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 201 pounds
Acquired by the Pittsburgh on Sunday, in the PensBurgh Top 25 Under 25 on Tuesday. Welcome to the Penguin world Dillon Hamaliuk!
To be honest, this is a curve ball and real time change for us all, being as the countdown has started. Hamaliuk, a former 2019 second round pick, slides into this feature when Nathan Legare (a former 2019 third rounder) departs the Pens’ organization in the same trade. For full disclosure and any interest Legare was slotted to be ranked 18th this year — a continued slide after being 7th in our 2021 rankings and then 14th in 2022.
Hamaliuk, in a sense, is a trade throw-in to balance out contracts. The Sharks had to pick up three contracts (Mike Hoffman, Jan Rutta, Mikael Granlund) to make the trade work and it made sense for them to send someone else out in the transaction. That someone ended up being Hamaliuk, who lookd at the end of his rope after making a minimal impact in the AHL in 2021-22 and then limited to just six ECHL games last season.
Similar to Legare, Hamaliuk may have seen his hockey value peak very early in his draft year. The below snapshot doesn’t yet include what would have to be an extremely unfulfilling 2022-23 season. This is visualized in an expectancy chart from Dobber Hockey:
Then again, fresh starts can breath life into careers, and the Penguins pickup a no risk change at seeing what Hamaliuk can bring to the table in the minors this season, the final year of his entry level contract.
Pittsburgh also doesn’t have any 6’4” forwards in the organizational pipeline, which at least offers some sort of promise — or did a few years ago when San Jose was enchanted enough with Hamaliuk’s potential to draft him fairly high with the 55th overall pick in 2019.
Staying on the ice has been a challenge for Hamaliuk. Even in his impressive draft year, he only appeared in 31 games at the WHL level. In 2020-21, due to the shortened WHL season, there were only 16 games for Hamaliuk to play in that year. Last season was more of the same with injuries keeping him from all but six games in 2022-23. It’s unfortunate but adds up to a lack of high level play over many crucial years where a young player could have used that time to develop.
That said, scouting reports tout Hamaliuk’s speed and willingness to be physical, as illustrated by compiling 71 total PIMs in just 50 pro games at the AHL and ECHL levels. He’s yet to put it together in long stretches but has some tools to work with.
2023-24 could be the defining year for Hamaliuk’s pro career, at least at the highest levels. It will be of the utmost importance that he has the good fortune to stay on the ice and then take advantage of the opportunity to show what he can do and why he was so highly rated as a younger player.
It could prove to be an uphill climb since a few of his prime developmental years were washouts but the Pens’ system is also wide open and ready for young players to step up and prove they belong. Hamaliuk is an extreme after-thought in the trade that is all about Karlsson, but his presence and individual opportunity to get his career back on track will b there.