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What To Expect From Top Canadiens Prospect Lane Hutson

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Montreal Canadiens Lane Hutson

Now that top prospect Lane Hutson has signed his entry-level contract with the Montreal Canadiens, fans will finally have an opportunity to watch the much-hyped player in an NHL setting.

Here’s what Habs fans can expect from one of the most exciting prospects in franchise history.

Lane Hutson Is Creative

The first thing fans will notice is that Hutson is always looking to turn any situation into a scoring opportunity. He uses his creativity and elite deception to execute plays that catch defending players by surprise. He’s particularly adept at taking advantage of chaotic situations, such as bad line changes or gaps in defensive coverage.

One of his greatest strengths is his ability to quickly retrieve pucks in the defensive zone and transition the play up the ice via a quick pass to a waiting teammate. If no outlet options are available, Hutson will take matters into his own hands by generating a controlled entry into the offensive zone, completing the puck-moving defenceman hat trick.

Lane Hutson Creates Time And Space

Hutson’s greatest strength in the NCAA was how much space he would create for his teammates, particularly during the man advantage.

There is no metric when it comes to drawing defencemen toward you, but if there was, I suspect Hutson would have ranked among the league leaders. His ability to walk the blue line not only opens up passing lanes but also forces the defending team to modify their defensive setup.

That’s when Hutson is at his best.

He’ll seed chaos and quickly take advantage of the resulting confusion.

In the meantime, his teammates simply have to use the organized chaos to find open ice, ideally in a high-danger shooting area.

He loves to shift the momentum to his left and follow it up with either a cross-ice pass to the right side of the rink or a quick release from the point once the coverage starts moving.

You’ll note that these plays aren’t always successful.

Hutson will sometimes misread the coverage, or perhaps lose the puck, but such is life for a player whose main focus is creating scoring plays.

Lane Hutson is Entertaining

Habs fans can expect Hutson to bring a certain flair to the table.

He’s no stranger to attempting one, two, or even three spin-o-ramas in the same shift. Of course, he’s not just spinning around on the ice because it looks cool as hell, though that is a perk.

He’s doing it to quickly make his way to an area on the ice with better shooting and passing lanes.

 

Lane Hutson Will Help Juraj Slafkovksy Produce

Hutson’s presence on the powerplay should lead to great things for the youngest player in the lineup, Juraj Slafkovsky.

Slafkovsky doesn’t possess the same type of raw shooting talent as Macklin Celebrini, the player Hutson set up for easy goals dozens of times this season for the Boston University Terriers, but he has shown an affinity for connecting on one-timers during the powerplay, which means we could see some instant chemistry between the 20-year-old players.

This is also good news for the Canadiens’ powerplay, in general.

If both Slafkovsky and Hutson can become potent scoring threats, players like Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki will have more time and space in the offensive zone. As it stands, Caufield and Suzuki are already producing during powerplays despite a lack of time and space.

 

Lane Hutson Is Confident

There are good odds Hutson will become more selective when it comes to his decision-making in the NHL. The talent discrepancy between Hutson and the majority of NCAA players won’t translate to the NHL, at least not immediately.

But once Hutson is comfortable with his new settings, Canadiens fans could be treated to an endless stream of highlight-reel plays that remind them of some of the many legends who have already written their chapter in the team’s ever-growing book of hockey excellence.

The Rumours of His Skating Woes Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Hutson isn’t an elite skater, in the sense that he can’t match a player like Nate MacKinnon or Cale Makar, but the pre-draft criticism regarding his skating seems to have been exaggerated to a certain degree.

That’s often the case in the lead-up to the draft. One scout will question a player’s skating in October, and by the time the draft rolls around the criticism has snowballed into a sea of hyperbole that suggests the player in question took skating lessons from Jason Allison.

More than anything, Hutson is somewhat of an awkward skater, as he tends to stay a little high during his first few strides.

His acceleration is not a strength, but his anticipation does allow him to cut off opposing forwards who are attempting to score off the rush, and his edge work has improved by leaps and bounds since he first made his NCAA debut.

Lane Hutson Is Not Perfect

The most important thing for Habs fans to keep in mind is that Hutson is far from a perfect player. He possesses a unique skill set, but he should not be expected to jump into the lineup and immediately improve all aspects of the Canadiens’ play.

He carries the puck more often than most. He will lose it at times. He will also get caught out of position, especially when opposing teams establish a sustained cycle in the Canadiens’ zone.

He’ll require sheltered usage at first, limited ice time and advantageous situations. Expect head coach Martin St-Louis to ease him into the frigid waters of professional hockey.

He will have to adapt to the lack of time in the NHL, which means he’ll have to execute his plays much faster than he did in the NCAA. Offensive-zone starts are in order, as is a dependable defensive partner.

As he’s the team’s defacto mentor, David Savard will likely be tasked with serving as Hutson’s chaperone throughout the last two games of the year. Savard is not the ideal long-term partner for Hutson. That may end up being David Reinbacher, but in the meantime, Savard is an excellent communicator and an affable veteran, which should help Hutson adjust to the new settings, both on and off the ice.


Cover Art via Annik Lemire.