Even though they're excited to see Lane Hutson's numbers this season, Montreal Canadiens fans need to lower their expectations and exercise patience with the young and talented prospect, warn two scouts who l have spied on many times last year and this season.
The Canadian's second-round pick in the last draft had a historic season in the NCAA. His 48 points in 38 games currently rank him third for the best single-season production by a defenseman under 19 in NCAA history. On March 18, he scored the game-winning goal in overtime as the Boston University Terriers captured the NCAA Hockey East Division Championship.
In a hot market like Montreal, literally everyone has their opinion of the young defenseman, and comparisons to some of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL, Cale Makar, Quinn Hughes or Adam Fox, have been drawn. Makar (21 points), Hughes (29 points) and Fox (40 points) have all been less productive at age 18 in the NCAA than Hutson.
But putting them all in the same conversation is a dangerous game, says the first recruiter we spoke to, who will be called “recruiter number one.”
“Lane Hutson is not Cale Makar. One of the reasons Makar is special is his skating and Hutson is not a skater at the same level. Starting off, you can't put both in the same category. You have to give it to him, he is a good stick handler. He is dynamic, but I still have big doubts since he is a small defender who plays small. I don't take anything away from his vision of the game and his talent, however,” he said, adding that the team he works for had him “a lot further than where he came out” on their list in 2022 and that others had simply not retained it in their final classification.
A different pace
The second scout, who we will present under the name of “recruiter number two”, abounds in this direction.
“Hutson is having an incredible season, he has the numbers of a dominant defender. It's rare to see that at his age. But I also look forward to seeing some things with him. The rhythm is very different with the pros. He will need to play three games in four nights and four games in six nights. With his size, it will be a big challenge.
“It becomes tiring mentally, but also physically, when you exceed the 60-game plateau. There is a big difference between a schedule of 40 or 45 games and one of 70 to 82.
Patience and development
Admittedly, the numbers he put up in his freshman year in the NCAA are exceptional, and our first responder reiterates that his doubts have nothing to do with his pure offensive talent, but rather with the fact that he doesn't isn't the most explosive skater for a defender his size. It is later pointed out to scout #1 that Quinn Hughes is not doing too badly in the NHL despite being 5'10″ and 180 lbs.
“You are still talking to me about an exceptional skater. Right now, with his size and his skating, Hutson is going to be tossed around in the pros. At the top, you no longer have a grid and when you are 5 ft 9 or 5 ft 10, you get elbowed in the face all the time. The risk of injury is greater.
“In college and junior, players don't know how to apply forecheck. In the NHL, it's a different story and Hutson is going to be part of other teams' game plan if he doesn't improve his speed.”
Some people have been saying for several months now that the CH has found its future offensive general in Hutson, which would be, let's face it, a real masterstroke, considering the rank where he was selected ( 62nd overall).
The No. 1 scout, who works for a Western team, finds it difficult to establish a projection for him at the moment.
“If he wants to establish himself in the NHL, he is going to have to be a specialist in the power play. It's going to be his chair. For that, his skating needs to improve, as does his physical strength. I have also seen comparisons with Samuel Girard, but he does not have the balance of Sam, who is also an exceptional skater. Hutson, his skating is average, his balance is average and he doesn't skate very well backwards. ready to be patient with the Boston University Terriers color holder.
“He's going to have to spend a lot of time in the American Hockey League. It will be very important in his development, a must. That's really where we're going to see if what he's doing in the college ranks can work in the pros.”
Hutson and the Terriers will face the Minnesota Gophers in the Frozen Four semifinals , Thursday at 5 p.m. at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay.