The Prospector: Ben Hutton’s record-breaking season; Canucks prospects make a mark in OHL playoffs

The Prospector is a semi-regular feature on Pass it to Bulis where we pan the Canucks prospects pool in search of gold.

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Ben Hutton sets University of Maine record for most goals by a defenceman

We’ve briefly touched on Ben Hutton in past Prospectors, but now that his season with the Black Bears is over, it’s time to take stock of just how good it really was.

The 20-year-old defenceman came just one point short of doubling his point total from his freshman season, finishing with 29 points in 35 games. That’s a solid enough point total for a sophomore forward in the NCAA, but for a defenceman its outstanding, placing him 6th in the NCAA in points. He finished first in points among sophomore defencemen, though a freshman, Gavin Bayreuther, managed to outdo him.

Most impressively, more than half of Hutton’s points were goals, leading all NCAA defencemen with 15. In the process, he broke the University of Maine’s single season goalscoring record for a defenceman.

Hutton was second on the Black Bears in points this season and led the team in goalscoring. He was a particular force on the powerplay, with 9 of his 15 goals coming with the man advantage. His impressive season netted him first team Hockey East honours, along with the only Black Bear who finished ahead of him in points, Devin Shore, a second round pick of the Dallas Stars.

His offensive numbers are impressive and are what set him apart, but he also has good size at 6’3″ and a well-rounded defensive game. His coach, Red Gendron, thinks the defensive side of his game is underrated.

“He’s got a great stick, and he’s got a great feel for the game. Obviously, he can skate,” Gendron said. “But there have been moments this year, on the penalty kill and other defensive situations, he’s been incredible. Basically, most nights he and Brice O’Connor play against the other team’s best players.”

That’s nice to hear, but let’s get back to those eye-catching numbers. This highlight video includes most of Hutton’s goals and showcases his skating, shot, and offensive instincts.

The first goal in the video will show up a couple more times, as it appears to be a set play from the Maine power play, with Hutton cycling down to the goal line, then finishing off a short pass from Shore (#94) from a tight angle. The passes from Shore are fantastic, but it’s Hutton’s quick release to get the shot off before the goaltender can slide across that is key.

You’ll see a lot of assists from Shore in this video, but Hutton does well to find open space on the ice and clearly knows how to jump up to create an odd-man rush. He can also shoot the puck, threading wristshots through traffic and showing good finish around the net, particularly with the lovely backhand at 1:34. Interestingly, he didn’t score a single goal with a slapshot, something his coach says he needs to work on.

The Canucks took a chance on selecting Hutton in the fifth round of the 2012 draft, as he was 19 and had already passed through the draft once. It looks like that pick is paying off so far.

Dane Fox, Bo Horvat, Brendan Gaunce, and Cole Cassels off to a good start in OHL playoffs

The OHL playoffs have begun, giving the Canucks’ OHL forward prospects a chance to shine (their OHL defence prospects either didn’t make the postseason or have been fairly quiet). All four are currently in the top-15 of scoring in the playoffs three or four games in, with Dane Fox leading the way with 10 points in 4 games, best in the OHL.

Fox has had multiple points in all four games for the Erie Otters, starting with a goal and assist in game one, including the third period gamewinner. In game two he tallied twice, winning the game in overtime with a quick shot from the slot off a Connor McDavid feed.

Fox didn’t manage a goal, but had 2 assists in a game three loss, then dominated game four, scoring a hattrick and adding an assist on a perfectly executed fake slapshot.

Bo Horvat had a four-point night in his most recent game as well, with a goal and three assists, bringing him up to 3 goals and 7 points in 3 games. His goal in game one was particularly sweet, as he used his patented Bo-drag in the neutral zone to create a 2-on-1, then made a great pass around the sprawling defender to start a give-and-go.

His goal in game three came shorthanded after he caused a turnover in the neutral zone (and possibly should have been called for tripping), then made the finish look easy on the breakaway.

Brendan Gaunce may benefit from Fox, McDavid, and Connor Brown getting most of the defensive attention, but he’s still producing at a solid rate, with 6 points through 4 games. He had 2 assists in game one, including on Fox’s gamewinner, was held off the scoresheet in game two, then went off in game three with 2 goals and an assist, including the tying goal with 32 seconds left that sent the game to overtime.

They regrettably still lost, but won game four, with Gaunce providing an insurance marker in the third period.

Finally, there’s Cole Cassels, who has 6 points through 3 games, with his Oshawa Generals up 3-0 in their series. He tallied 2 assists in game one, scored the overtime gamewinner in game two, then had a goal and 2 assists in game three. Cassels is my darkhorse to make the Canucks next season after watching his superb two-way play at the prospects tournament and beyond. His breakout offensive season certainly hasn’t hurt his cause, though he’s obviously still a longshot due to his youth.

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1 Comment

  1. Dan C.
    March 27, 2014

    No mention of the goalie packing up and going home during Bo’s 4 point night?

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