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Canuck Player Autopsy: Ben Hutton

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If having a happy attitude is a precursor of success, we should have seen it coming with the ever smiling rookie from Brockville Ontario.

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Who is this guy ?

Position: Defense, from the third pairing to the first.

Shoots: Left

Height: 6'2"

Weight: 183 lbs

Born: On a ( obviously ) sunny day on 4 / 20 / 93.  Happy Birthday Ben !

What'd he do man ?

Well, He made the team as a rookie, when no one expected him to, as a 5th round pick from 2012.  Mike Gilles knew that the player was good back then, just that he was going to go to school for the full four years.  Much like Kevin Bieksa, who went to Bowling Green on his way to the NHL, this Maine Black Bear was supposed to start the season in Utica.

This article from last month is germaine here, as are the quotes from JB within.  They kept waiting for him to take a step back, and he really didn't.  There was a dip there in late winter / early spring, as ( I think ) he hit a wall.  But all he did after that was float in and out of whatever Top Four pairing injuries and chemistry put in front of him.  My personal favorite was when he was paired with Nikita Tryamkin, as it let him flex his offensive muscles some more.  But it did not seem to really matter as far as his level of play was concerned.

The stats, in a season where everyone is going to have bad stats,are going to be downwardly affected, of course.  It should be noted that Mr Hutton had 24 assists, most on the blue line ( by 10 over Tanev and Edler ), but was the worst plus minus defenseman on the team this year, at -21 in 75 games played.

For relevance, because a lot of it is going to be due to the fact he was also almost the team leader in games played by defensemen, has to do with everyone's favorite stat, plus minus.   It is a stat that is imperfect, but, if it can be a decent arbiter of the value or not of being on the ice when you are scored upon for any players, it might be most telling for defensemen.  The rest of the blue line that played regularly, in + / - , ranged from Luca Sbisa at  +5 in 41 GP, Dan Hamhuis , -2 in 58 GP, both Nikita Tryamkin and Andrey Pedan at -3 in 13 GP, Alexander Edler -8 in 52 GP, the same as Christopher Tanev, who played 69 games, and Alex Biega, a -11 in 51 GP, followed by Yannick Weber, who managed to tally a -17 in 41 games that he got into.  The only player who played more games than Hutton was Matt Bartkowski, who was a -19 in 80 GP.

So Ben Hutton earned that + / - this year, such as it was, but it did not define him.  I have a feeling from watching him that he will manage to bring that number down as he progresses through his NHL career.  When you think about it in relative terms, in this "down" season, anyone that watched this team this year could see that he was an NHL defenseman.  As more responsibility was put on him through the year, he continued to adapt and show his talents.

All while coming to camp as a 5th round pick from the previous regime who most folks did not know about, winning a spot, starting on the bottom pairing and forcing, by his play, his way up the depth chart.  His 1 goal came on 104 shots( most from the blue line, but for Edler's 111 shots, which came in 23 less games ) , and by the end, he was on the power play ( where he had 7 of his 24 assists ).  Oh yeah, while averaging 19:52 TOI, he took seven minors all year.

And he did it all with a smile on his face in a shitty year.  Not bad for a rookie.

Any Good ?

Well, you can see from above that I think so, but let's see what the advanced stats show us.  Check the whole blue line's stats from the fine folks at stats.hockeyanalysis.com here.  Spend some time clicking around that table and make your own assumptions.  In this season, I tried to let my eyes guide me more, because I knew that the stats were going to be, well, lousy, and as the team degenerated into comical levels of regulars out and Utica players in, you knew it would be tough, even with the cold hard math that is the advanced stats, to give an accurate portrayal of how someone did.

I thought he was good.  He displayed the same levels of cool as Tanev with the puck, and maybe has more natural ability at handling it as well.  He seems to enjoy jumping up in the play, and those long smooth strides seem to get him back most of the times he does venture up the ice.  The power play was pretty pedestrian all year, but did show flashes when he was at the point.  He thinks the game very well, and that is a very underrated talent.  It is also, coupled with his overall talents in all facets of the game, why Canuck fans have every right to get excited about his future play.

We forget sometimes how young some of these guys were this year.  Hutton was a four year college player, so he has a few years on guys like Virtanen and McCann.  But you could see it, around the time the season for NCAA players was ending for most student players, that his game sagged a bit.  It was the only time I got concerned.  He is a rookie.  But he played through it, and that also speaks to the future being pretty bright for the amiable defender  He fought through it and finished strong.  That's good, right ?


What did we like ?

This is a pretty good first goal.  I love how happy the team was...

You will be forgiven for the happiness and playoff talk in this one, but I like this behind the scenes stuff...and the mom trip seemed like it was fun for one and all.

And he stole the Dice and Ice rookie show...hilarious !

Ben's attitude shines through in the post season presser, and nice little nuggett dropped about him playing in the Worlds this year.

What about hate ?

How can you hate a guy like this ?  Just kidding.  This is the part where we have to hate something.  It is tough with this player.  He is always so naturally nice and positive that, you find yourself leaning naturally to the positive ( even more than usual for me, I know, I know...shut up ), but as far as Hutton's play went, I am drawing a blank right now. Wait, there is one, but it was not him, per se.  I hate that Ben Hutton did not have a regular partner for more than a few games at a time this year.  I know it was because of a lineup more malleable than silly putty, but I think if he has a regular guy and develops some chemistry that the 24 assists and only 1 goal will seem quaint for a rookie season.  Let's hope, anyhow.  He does seem to have a lot more to give and show in his play.  Maybe in a year with a bit more lineup "support" ?

And now ?

Ben Hutton is a halfway through a two year deal that paid him 925K ( good value ) this past year, and the same next year.  He would, in theory, become an RFA at the end of next year, but we have seen how JB signs the guys he likes.  With Hutton, he will sign him, but the real sticking point will be term.  I would think that the Canucks would want this guy and his burgeoning talent in their plans for more years than less.  Expect him to get signed, probably even in this summer's business.