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Canadiens Prospects: Draft Experts Discuss Lane Hutson’s Talent

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Canadiens prospect Lane Hutson 111

Now that Canadiens prospect Lane Hutson has officially announced he will return to Boston University for another year of NCAA action, we can take a look back at his season, as to evaluate his strengths and weaknesses.

I recently discussed Hutson’s strong points and where he could stand to improve his game, but I’m a big believer in reaching out to several people when it comes to prospect evaluation. Let’s be honest, no matter how good anyone is at analyzing prospects, it’s always a healthy experiment to get various opinions.

I gathered quotes from some of my favourite prospect analysts, as to give readers a more varied selection of opinions regarding Hutson’s future.

Lane Hutson. Defenceman, Boston University Terriers (NCAA). Drafted: 62nd overall (2022),  Age: 18.

Season Stats: 39 Games Played, 15 Goals, 33 Assists, 48 Points.

Chris Peters: The biggest thing Lane needs to work on is the one thing he doesn’t have as much control over. He can lift as many weights as he wants and eat everything in sight, but this is not a process that is completely on him. His physical frame is still underdeveloped and that is something that will only improve/change with time as opposed to effort. He’ll obviously need both, but there won’t be any shortcuts on that front.

He has every single intangible to him. He competes, he’s smart, and he doesn’t allow himself to get knocked off his game thanks to poise and maturity. But then you add in all of the dynamic elements he possesses and that takes him to another level.

MUST READ: Canadiens Prospect Lane Hutson’s Historic Freshman Season At BU In Context

He is as good a puck handler as there is on defence, he makes so many plays beneath the offensive blue line and in transition that teams still haven’t figured out how to match up against him. His shot has improved and I think will get better as he gets stronger, but he gets so many pucks through as it is.

I can’t think of another defenseman that I’ve seen that plays like him outside of maybe Ryan Murphy, but I think Lane’s compete level and will to defend separate him from Murphy, who was as dynamic as any defenseman I’ve tracked over the years. Lane is not one-dimensional and never has been, but now he just needs his body to catch up a little bit.

Editor’s Note: Chris’ opinion lines up perfectly with mine, and thus, is correct. Jokes aside, few analysts have watched Hutson more often than Chris. His opinion rightfully carries a lot of weight in NCAA circles.


Florence Normand: Habs fans will have to wait at least another year until seeing Hutson in a Canadiens jersey, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t start to get excited about his eventual arrival. He’s a defenceman with natural offensive talent. He hypnotizes opposing players and uses his intelligence to create plays in the offensive zone.

He projects to be a good candidate for a role Canadiens fans have been wanting to fill for a very long time: powerplay quarterback. He’s incredibly exciting to watch play, dynamic and spectacular. I’d say at the moment he has top-four potential, but there’s no doubt he could become a top-pairing defenceman (think Quinn Hughes, paired with a defensive defenceman at his side). He’s one of the best prospects the Canadiens have in their system.

As for weaknesses, one-on-one battles come to mind. He’s not the biggest player in the league. However, he already has a very good stick, which will mitigate the odds of entering into many one-on-one battles. He will have to add some muscle to his frame.

And he needs to do a better job picking his spots once he arrives in the NHL. However, in his case, given his talent, pairing him with a defenceman that is a little less creative should allow Hutson to use his mobility once he makes his professional hockey debut.

Editor’s Note: Some may take exception to Florence’s projection of a top-four defenceman, but for the time being, it’s not just an honest projection, it’s realistic. Hutson is not quite at the point that we should consider him a potential top-pairing defenceman, but as Florence notes, it probably won’t be long until he reaches that point if he can work through some of his weaknesses. 


Hadi Kalakeche:

Hutson is about as dynamic and intelligent a puck carrier as you can get. He knows exactly how to beat any player, whether it’s with an inside-out move, a pump fake, a look-off pass, a give-and-go, or anything that involves him having the puck, he does it brilliantly.

His intelligence really shows when he’s defending, too, but his feet and body often can’t do the things his brain wants to do. As soon as a player is fast enough or has a large enough wingspan, they can get around Hutson pretty easily due to his poor pivots and his lack of strength.

He can occasionally struggle on opposing dump-ins when they’re well-executed because of that as well. The skill and smarts are off the charts, though, so if he’s properly developed and these key weaknesses are ironed out, there isn’t much stopping him from becoming a top-pair offensive defenceman in the NHL.

I’d also add that he’s been using his outside edges a lot better this year in the NCAA, which was a big concern in his draft year, so his skating is already trending up.

Editor’s Note: This is perhaps the most critical analysis of Hutson’s game, however, it’s quite accurate, in my opinion. As we discussed in another article, this Canadiens prospect has a lot of strengths, but he is not NHL-ready.


Sebastien High: I stated prior to the 2022 Entry Draft that I believed Lane Hutson to be the most dynamic defenceman available in the class, and that was one of the primary reasons I ranked him 11th overall.

His dynamism, deception, playmaking, skill, and intelligence remain his greatest strengths, which haven’t changed in the past year. What has shifted has been Hutson’s ability to manage pressure defensively, his pivots have progressed a bit (they remain a clear weakness), and he has leaned into the choppiness of his skating to amplify his deception (which is a tremendously intelligent strategy and demonstrates his adaptive skill).

He’s become a more consistent slot-oriented offensive player, he’s developed his shooting mechanics and shot selection a ton, and he’s proven that the step up in competition versus bigger and better opponents has done nothing to impede his offensive skill. Lane Hutson projects as a top-4 offensive defenceman who will run a PP1 but who will be on the ice for a fair number of goals against, unless he is paired with a very strong two-way partner.

His upside, in my mind, could be comparable to a Quinn Hughes, but a lot would need to pan out in his development for such a height to be reached, especially with his skating lagging behind Hughes’ by a fair margin. One more season at Boston University will do Hutson a lot of good and it gives him the opportunity to both continue to grow in confidence by dominating strong competition and continuing to work on his defensive game (especially his rush defence).

Watching Hutson and top 2024-eligible Macklin Celebrini torch Hockey East next season is one of the things I’m most looking forward to personally in the 2023-24 season.

Editor’s Note: As is always the case when a prospect exceeds pre-draft expectations, many people have claimed to have been on the Hutson hype train well before he became a Canadiens prospect. But very few have the receipts to prove it. As far as I know, Sebastian was the only Draft expert who had Hutson in his top-15 and deserves a lot of praise for his pre-draft evaluation.


Aaron Itovitch: It’s no secret that Lane Hutson is my favourite prospect in all of hockey, and I’m still not quite over the high I felt when the Canadiens drafted him 62nd overall (my scream for them to take him was so loud it can be heard on the broadcast!), but his game doesn’t come without fault.

He excels in anything to do with offence. He reads the game exceptionally well and finds creative passing lanes many defensemen would be scared to explore. He drives play efficiently, using his brain to elevate his teammates. This is why his production is so high, but it is not artificially boosted – he is just that good at making plays happen.

His defensive intelligence is average at least. Unfortunately his defensive toolkit could stand to be improved. His pivots are a glaring difficulty in his play, which limits him in backchecking at the flip of a coin, and he’ll sometimes find himself chasing opposing players into his own zone.

He can also be physically overpowered. Despite being 5’10” and 161 pounds now, which is a whole different ballgame than the 5’7” 148 he was on draft day, he can still be closed in on by big fast forwards.

While he will be able to hold his own most of the time, a Tage Thompson type could seriously shut him down. His strengths certainly outweigh his weaknesses, but there are things that need to be addressed to turn him into the optimal NHLer. I’ve hedged my bets on Hutson, and knowing how far he’s come in his D+1, I’m expecting even more improvement this coming season.

Editor’s Note: Aaron also had Hutson quite high in his pre-draft rankings, putting the talented defenceman at 17th overall on his list. The note about his pivoting is worth keeping in mind, though I will guarantee it’s something the Canadiens development team has already noted, and will be the main focus for Adam Nicholas and his team at the next development camp. 

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Tyrone

Anybody know what Quinn Hughes’s height and weight were when he entered the NHL for his rookie season? I know Hutson has grown, but his weight scares me still. He’s one misstep away from getting crushed (and likely injured in Montreal). It’s impossible to escape everything every time, so he’s bound to take a big hit at some point. I’m just trying to gauge his survivability of taking such a hit.

Captain Kirk

Torrey Krug sounds like a similar player in a physical comparison and Krug is still playing in the NHL 10 years? later.

Shai

Great article Marc! Loved hearing about the different points of view. Also great to voice your thoughts after each.

A good template for other prospect articles!

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