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looked like a kid who had borrowed his father’s much-too-large Canadiens sweater.
Montreal had just selected Hutson in the second round (62nd overall) of
last July’s NHL Draft at the Bell Centre
and the Canadiens sweater he was wearing was falling off his shoulders when he met with the media.
“Hopefully I can fill the jersey out a little bit more,” said Hutson, who was listed at 5-foot-8 and 158 pounds at the time.
Less than a year later, that Canadiens sweater is looking like it could be a very good fit for Hutson in the future.
As a freshman at Boston University this season, Hutson posted 15-33-48 totals in 39 games and had a plus-25 differential while becoming the first defenceman in Hockey East history to win the league scoring title. Boston University won the league championship with Hutson scoring two goals — including the winner in overtime — in a 3-2 victory over Merrimack in the championship game.
Hutson is now playing for Team USA at the IIHF World Championship and continues to impress. Heading into Saturday’s semifinal game in Tampere, Finland, against Germany
(11 a.m., TSN, RDS),
Hutson has 2-4-6 totals in seven games and is plus-8. Canada, with the Canadiens’ Samuel Montembeault in goal, will play Latvia in the other semifinal
(7 a.m., TSN, RDS).
Jay Pandolfo, the head coach at Boston University,
isn’t surprised to see Hutson performing so well at the world championship.
“I just think he’s playing his game,” Pandolfo said in a phone interview Friday. “For Lane, sometimes it takes him a little time to get adjusted. The speed and the strength is a level up from college and I feel like once he adjusts and starts to play his game he starts growing more and more confidence. It’s impressive. He did the same thing coming into college at the NCAA level. He can adapt.”
Hutson has decided to return to Boston University next season rather than turn pro, which is a smart move. Another year at university will allow him to continue developing both on and off the ice. Pandolfo said Hutson is now 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds.
“A benefit of college is you don’t play as many games as you do in junior, so you have a lot of time to develop physically off the ice,” Pandolfo said. “Our guys, especially early in the season, they’re in the weight room three of four days a week getting really good strength training in. Lane put some weight on this year and he also grew. I think another year of that should set him up well to move on and play in the NHL.”
Pandolfo was selected by the New Jersey Devils in the second round (32nd overall) of
the 1993 NHL Draft
and played four full seasons at Boston University before turning pro. He played 15 seasons in the NHL. After retiring, Pandolfo was an assistant coach with the Boston Bruins for five seasons, then spent one year as associate coach at Boston University before becoming head coach last year. He was named Hockey East coach of the year this season.
What Hutson lacks in size, he makes up for with a high hockey IQ and his competitiveness. He has a good stick defensively and knows how to use angles to cut players off.
“A big part of his game is ending plays quickly so he doesn’t spend a lot of time in the defensive zone so he doesn’t have to get worn down battling in front of the net,” Pandolfo said. “The strength of his game is ending plays quick and getting going on transition. It certainly helped our team team this year how quick he could transition the puck and get us going on offence.”
The Canadiens ranked 26th in the NHL this season in offence and 29th on the power play. They definitely need help on offence moving forward in their rebuilding plan and Hutson could be a player to do that.
“He’s a special player,” Pandolfo said. “I think he’s going to do very well at the NHL level. Of course, like any young player, he’s going to have some growing pains and he’ll have to adjust to certain things. But he can adjust quickly.”
Pandolfo added that playing with better players in the NHL will help Hutson.
“He makes a lot of plays in college where, honestly, some guys aren’t ready for it,” Pandolfo said. “He sees the ice that well. I think playing with better players will make him an even better player. I really do expect him to be able to jump in and be productive pretty quickly (in the NHL).”
Pandolfo also believes having Martin St. Louis as a head coach will help Hutson.
“Knowing Marty, he’ll respect what Lane can do and he’ll let him play to his strengths and I think that will help Lane,” Pandolfo said. “If he has confidence to know he can play to his strengths he’ll gain more confidence and be an even better player.”
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