Montreal Canadiens: Final Thoughts On Lane Hutson's Gold Medal Winning World Juniors

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IHOCKEY-JUNIOR-USA-SWE / BJORN LARSSON ROSVALL/GettyImages
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The 2024 World Junior Hockey Championships were a coming-out party for Montreal Canadiens prospect Lane Hutson, but for a different reason than we would have expected.

Hutson has led the American squad in average ice time per game throughout the tournament, playing 23 minutes a game. The increase in his ice team can be attributed solely to his improved defensive play, which has earned him the lion's share of minutes on the number one penalty-killing unit. The offensive wizardry and crafty one-on-one play are expected from Hutson, but the growth in his defensive game is a welcomed addition to his game.

I spoke about Kent Hughes's plan for Hutson in an article a month or so back. Hughes was transparent with his intentions - he wants Hutson in Montreal at the end of his sophomore season with Boston University. So the growth in his play away from the puck and his work on the penalty kill for Team USA, point to him focusing on that area of his game.

The growth and added dimension to Hutson's game prove how dynamic he is and how high his potential is. If he can continue growing his defensive game, while continuing his strong transitional and offensive play, he could become a very special two-way defenseman in the NHL. His narrow shoulders don't quite tell the story of the pressure that he carries. To meet the crazy high expectations that he has set with his play, he will need to become very good, but he just keeps getting better. So that doesn't seem out of reach.

His gold medal game performance against the Swedes showed plenty of his brilliance, in all three zones and on both sides of the puck. Hutson's innate ability to elevate his play for the biggest games was on full display against Team Sweden. Though the Americans and Swedes had a scoreless first period until close to the two-minute mark, Hutson killed penalties, defended well and created multiple scoring chances.

It was great to see Hutson still do all the things that you expect him to do out on the ice, but the growth in his play away from the puck didn't take anything away from that. No matter the situation or time left in the period, Hutson just plays hard every shift. His elite toolkit allows him to make it look effortless at times.

Hutson saved his best for the gold medal game, without having much of an impact on the scoresheet. He was smart and stout defensively and played a strong transition game. In the dying minutes the frustration came through in Sweden's play and Hutson mixed it up with Swedish defender Albert Johansson, who is about two inches taller and 20 pounds heavier.

The 'too small', 'undersized defender didn't have much of a problem getting into the rough stuff. Despite his diminutive size, he is a gamer through and through. Martin St. Louis is going to love this kid and so is the Bell Centre faithful.

Lane Hutson was named to the tournament allstar tournament, Swedish defenseman and Detroit Red Wings prospect Axel Sandin-Pelikka was named best defenseman of the World Junior Championships.

Hutson and Jacob Fowler are World Juniors gold medallists. Hutson finished the tournament with six assists in seven games. He also averaged roughly 23 minutes per game.