By Annie Fowler | Tri-City Herald
Portland coach Mike Johnston if fully aware of who Justin Hamonic is. After playing the Tri-City Americans three times in the last month, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound defenseman leaves an impression.
“He’s a big, physical guy,” Johnston said. “He is imposing out there. He takes up a lot of space and closes in on guys quick. He doesn’t give you a lot of room, especially in the neutral zone, so you really have to be aware of where he is on the ice.”
Hamonic, 19, has come a long way since his rookie season two years ago when he played just 39 games.
“He’s probably one of the best examples of that slow, steady climb,” said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller. “This year, he seems to have taken a real leap from preseason to now. He thinks the game really well. He’s being more assertive and taking charge. We rely on him a lot more and that builds confidence. In big opportunities, he has been able to rise to the challenge.”
A native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Hamonic was taken in the fifth round of the 2009 WHL bantam draft. When he came into the league at 17, the Americans had a strong corps of defensemen that included Zach Yuen, Drydn Dow, Mitch Topping, Sam Grist and Derek Ryckman. Hamonic knew he would have to earn his ice time.
“I knew coming in I was one of the young guys and I wouldn’t play a lot,” Hamonic said. “We had good forwards (Brendan Shinnimin, Adam Hughesman and Patrick Holland) and a strong D. I stuck it out and worked hard and improved every day. It’s paid off throughout my career. That’s the thing I’m trying to pass on to the young guys — don’t give up, don’t lose hope. It will pay off if you work hard.”
Hamonic’s hard work and perseverance have come back to him tenfold.