Ben Hutton is about to become a household name for Vancouver Canucks’ fans, and it could not happen at a better time for the team.
The 22-year-old from Prescott, Ontario was drafted in the fifth round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft from the University of Maine by the Canucks. He had his first taste of professional hockey when he left the University of Maine after the 2014-15 season and joined the Utica Comets. There he scored one goal in four games.
Hutton was converted from a forward into a defenceman during his second year of Junior A with the Kempville 73s and as a result, has great offensive instincts. Playing with the University of Maine, Ben scored 28 goals and 37 assists over 108 games. One of Hutton’s assets has been the ability to skate with the puck up the ice.
Enter the 2015 NHL preseason. The Canucks seemed to hope that Hutton would have a good camp and then send him to Utica for pro seasoning in the AHL. This has not happened. Not only has he had a good camp, but he has been outstanding on the blue line. As a result of Hutton’s play, Jim Benning is being forced to make hard roster decisions.
The Canucks have never really had a dynamic defence prospect like Hutton. A defender who can carry the puck and make smart passes for years. Both Head Coach Willie Desjardin and General Manager are in agreement that Hutton has been one of the Canucks’ best defencemen on the ice.
#Canucks Willie on Ben Hutton: "I don't think there's a game he's played he hasn't been in our top-four."
— Steve Ewen (@SteveEwen) October 3, 2015
GM Benning on surprising rookie Ben Hutton: "On any given night, he has been one of our top two or three defencemen.”
— Iain MacIntyre (@imacVanSun) October 3, 2015
As well, Canuck veterans have been speaking highly of Ben Hutton’s play. Captain Henrik Sedin had this complement for young Hutton according to The Province:
“As well as tonight, he’s been the key in the games I’ve watched and haven’t played. When we take over games, it’s when our D starts skating… The way he can skate, from standing still to three steps, how fast he is able to get to top speed is amazing.”
Having a defenceman who can carry the puck up at speed into the offensive zone would give the Sedins’ and easier time setting up their cycle. Assistant Coach Glen Gulutzan was also highly complimentary of Hutton during the Canucks’ preseason game against the San Jose Sharks. Again, from The Province:
“There are some guys who just have those NHL subtleties. He has them and they’re hard to teach… He has the ability to hold the puck for the extra second; not the too-long second but that extra second to let plays develop. That’s a hard skill to teach. He can see plays, has the patience to let them develop, then he makes the play.”
As final roster cuts loom, sending Hutton down to the Comets is a possibility and would not be the end of the line for him. If Hutton is sent down, he will have the opportunity to log large amounts of minutes for the Comets playing on the powerplay, penalty kill, and in the ever so important last minutes of play in a game. Getting used to playing important minutes would do wonders for Hutton and his development.
There is another player with a similar story to Hutton.
During the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, Chris Tanev suited up for five games, three of those games were against Boston in the Stanley Cup Final. Instead of sticking with the Canucks, Tanev was sent to the AHL to play with the Chicago Wolves after three games with the Canucks. Tanev was later recalled for full time play with the Canucks in February of the 2011-12 regular season. He is now a fixture on the Canucks’ blue line, making the top pairing with Alex Edler.
Currently, the Canucks have Alex Edler, Dan Hamhuis, Chris Tanev, Luca Sbisa, Yannick Weber, Alex Biega, Matt Bartowski and Ben Hutton still on the preseason roster. Based off of Hutton’s preseason play, he should be able to make the opening night roster. We will see if sticking with the Canucks’ is the best path for developing Hutton within the next few days.
If he sticks with the Canucks or is sent down to the Comets, Hutton will be a household name on the Canucks’ blue line. He can make the smart offensive plays. He can skate the puck out of trouble and into trouble for the opposing team. For a team that is looking to get younger, Hutton will not disappoint Canuck fans.