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Bruins select Hamill at No. 8

Center possesses abundant skills

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Two weekends ago, Zach Hamill had dinner at Tresca, the North End restaurant owned by Ray Bourque.

Last night, when the Bruins selected the 5-foot-11-inch, 180-pound center with the No. 8 pick in the NHL draft, Cam Neely announced Hamill's name. It was general manager Peter Chiarelli's idea to have Neely, who was originally going to watch the proceedings from a suite at Nationwide Arena, come to the podium to announce the selection of a fellow British Columbian.

"Getting my name called was something special," said Hamill. "What could be a better situation with family and friends that supported me? And yeah, I was happy it was Cam Neely. He's a Hall of Famer. You can't say anything bad about that guy."

So, you could say that the 18-year-old from Vancouver already has a Boston pedigree.

"Hopefully one day I can wear a Boston Bruins jersey," said Hamill, who had several interviews with Boston representatives throughout the year.

Chiarelli placed the No. 8 pick in play before the draft, taking inquiries from his counterparts. But Chiarelli decided to stay put, selecting one of the five players invited to Boston for a tour of the city. Hamill also got a look at the team's facilities at TD Banknorth Garden, and Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington.

Chiarelli said he inquired about moving into the top five, but said the asking price was too high. He said there was one significant discussion about a team moving up to Boston's spot, but the sides couldn't connect.

"He's got a very good skill set," said Chiarelli, who noted that Hamill has elements in his game of Sabres forward Chris Drury and Avalanche captain Joe Sakic. "He's got a great stick."

Hamill, whose eyes lit up when he recalled the Hummer stretch limo that picked him up at Logan Airport, scored 93 points (17 power-play goals) in 2006-07 with Everett of the Western Hockey League under ex-NHL coach Kevin Constantine, recently hired by the AHL's Houston Aeros. One of his teammates was center Peter Mueller, a first-round pick of the Coyotes in 2006.

"Zach is a skillful guy," said Central Scouting director E.J. McGuire. "He's like a [No. 1 overall pick] Patrick Kane or [Sabres forward Daniel] Briere type of guy. On Everett, he got his points as a power-play specialist. But he contributed to everything else. He learned from Constantine, which will allow him to get to the NHL much quicker and more responsible when he gets there."

Constantine is notorious for being a defensive taskmaster, a reputation Hamill learned firsthand. Hamill was coached to think defense first, making sure to be responsible in his zone instead of going all-out on offense. Hamill said that one of his strengths is hockey sense.

"They say I wasn't the biggest or quickest guy," said Hamill. "But I think I'm one of those guys who can go in and battle. I think I'm more quick than fast, and I've got drive and work ethic."

Hamill will attend training camp this fall, but unless he puts on an extraordinary performance, he'll go back to his junior team for 2007-08.

"With Phil Kessel last year, we knew there was a chance of him playing," Chiarelli said. "[Hamill] will get his chance, but yeah, [he'll] probably go back to junior."

During his visit in Boston, Hamill went through physical testing under the supervision of strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides. He also had a chance to tour Fenway Park, although the Red Sox weren't around at the time.

"I don't think I've washed my hand since I touched the ground at Fenway," Hamill joked.

Hamill said one area in which he needs to improve may be strength. With added bulk, Hamill could be more of a presence down low and in the corners. Chiarelli said Hamill wasn't an in-your-face player.

"The preparation starts tomorrow," said Hamill. "Start working out and go from there."

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at FShinzawa@globe.com.

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