UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa, -- Freshman defenseman Derian Hamilton has stood tall during his first few months in a Penn State sweater. Hamilton has played in eight contests and has secured two assists for the Nittany Lions.
Hamilton previously played in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League, splitting his time between three teams during the 2012-15 seasons. Notably, Hamilton was captain of the Comox Valley Glacier Kings in 2014-15.
While the rest of the freshman class hails from the United States, Hamilton finds himself the lone Canadian player in the class of 2019.
Hamilton, who is from Port McNeil, British Columbia, comes from a town of fewer than 3,000 people. This tight-knit community was a perfect environment for young Hamilton to thrive in and develop his skills as a defenseman.
"Growing up in a small town was a little interesting," said Hamilton. "There are a lot of small towns where I'm from but the one big thing was getting a lot of free ice time. Ice was not that expensive so we got a ton of time to just go out and have fun and kind of do whatever we wanted on the ice."
With ice time not an issue, time skating was more of a fun activity, rather than an overly serious endeavor.
"I think that helped my skating a lot and it just made playing hockey a lot of fun," said Hamilton.
When asked who he models his style of play after, Hamilton talked about his respect for Kris Russell of the Calgary Flames. Hamilton spoke of Russell's performance during the 2007 Memorial Cup Final when Russell was a member of the Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL).
"I really like the way he played," said Hamilton. "He really moved the puck well and I really admired that out of his game even though he's turned into more of a defensive guy now."
Now in State College, a town made up of more than 40,000 undergraduate students, alone, Hamilton has transitioned into being a consistent force on defense for the Nittany Lions.
Hamilton has also successfully transitioned into being a student-athlete.
"The biggest change is definitely the student part, [in Juniors] I worked a little but mostly just played hockey, now it's just a bit busier schedule trying to balance school and hockey," said Hamilton. "I'm getting used to it and it's actually been a lot of fun so far."
The 21-year-old also spoke of how even though he's older than the average freshman, he still faces the same struggles his classmates do and isn't afraid to seek the advice of veteran teammates.
"I've actually learned quite a bit from the older guys," said Hamilton. "The older guys are really helpful with classes, with little things that we may have questions about, like what kind of classes to take. They're really open to questions and they want us all to succeed, so that's helpful."
Hamilton is excited for his time as a student-athlete and looks forward to pursuing a degree in business while also contributing on the ice.
As the season picks up, and Big Ten play approaches, Hamilton will prepare for tougher games ahead, but that's something he looks forward to.
Penn State faces Michigan State this weekend in Pegula Ice Arena, Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m.