Up until the last two or three years, the Canucks have done a phenomenal job of Patrick Whiteing their first round picks away (see the 2007 NHL entry draft). To the Canucks’ credit though, for every first round pick Nathan Smithed, they’ve been able to Alex Edler and Kevin Bieksa some later round picks into legitimate NHL players. It seems as though the trend will continue with 2012 fifth round pick, Ben Hutton.
Hutton is a slick, offensive-minded defenseman who seemingly came out of nowhere. After being drafted out of the University of Maine by the Canucks with the 147th overall pick in the 2012 draft, Hutton really broke out offensively.
In 35 games with the Black Bears, Hutton scored 15 goals and 14 assists en route to being named to the All-Hockey East First Team and to the AHCA Hockey East Second All-American Team. His numbers dropped slightly in his junior year but the Canucks saw enough to sign him to an entry level contract in March of 2015.
Coming into 2015, little was expected of Hutton. Everyone expected he would be sent to the AHL to hone his craft. He showed up for training camp and started wowing everyone with his crisp passes, his calm demeanor, and his smooth skating. A lot of the veterans had never heard of Hutton or knew who he was coming into camp. He outplayed Frank Corrado by a significant margin in the preseason, scoring five points in six games, which led to the Canucks placing Corrado on waivers and him ultimately being claimed by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Hutton doesn’t need to introduce himself to anyone anymore. Through 20 NHL games he’s got eight assists and is tenth in rookie ice time at 17:43 per game. The Canucks have been putting him in all situations, including playing the point on the top powerplay unit with the Sedins.
After watching him play, it’s tough to see how he fell to the fifth round in his draft year. His hockey sense is off the charts for a young defenseman; he always knows when to put a pass on the tape or when to chip the puck out off the glass. His skating is quite strong and his positioning is even stronger. He uses his stick extremely well, keeping opponents to the periphery and forces opposing attackers to beat him with a perfect pass or shot.
The consensus around the league already is that the Canucks seemingly have unearthed a diamond in the rough with Hutton. Kudos to Team President Trevor Linden and General Manager Jim Benning for opening up the Curious Case of Benjamin Hutton a year or two before it was expected.