Montreal Canadiens: Lane Hutson: USA Player Of The Game Showing Growth Defensively

Boston University v Massachusetts-Lowell
Boston University v Massachusetts-Lowell / Richard T Gagnon/GettyImages

Through three games to start his second World Junior Hockey Championships Lane Hutson has scored just one point, an assist.

It can be taken however you perceive it, but the truth of the matter is that Hutson hasn’t been bad at all. In fact, Hutson has been brilliant defensively, showing off tremendous growth in his play away from the puck. Sure, we all expect Hutson to dominate on the scoresheet, but he has found another way to impact the game.

As a Montreal Canadiens enthusiast and die hard fan, I watch the prospects closely and I have never been concerned about what Hutson can bring offensively. But when you watch him defending on the penalty kill in a best-on-best tournament, it certainly adds another feather in his hat. He could potentially play in the NHL right now, and develop just fine, but he has made considerable efforts to grow his defensive game away from Montreal first.

He doesn’t look particularly small, but I think if he could play at 175-180-pounds he would be just fine. With half of the NCAA season to go, Hutson has plenty of time to study, eat, play hockey and hit the gym. Hutson will benefit from a little more muscle on his frame to handle bigger and faster players around the net and in the corners.

I’m not suggesting that he has to add 20-25-pounds to his frame, but going from 165 to 175-180 would still allow him to be elusive and dynamic on his edges. You never discourage what has worked, but add to it and enhance it. With the added muscle, his defensive stick should be more stout and his skating a little more explosive.

Jayden Struble is a great example of having a strong centre of gravity, and a very strong lower body. I can see Hutson benefitting from added strength, because he will be able to escape from defenders faster. Not only that, but he can use his added strength to muscle past forecheckers.

Maybe he never plays on the penalty kill during his career with the Canadiens or maybe he does. But you can’t cement what Hutson will be based on him not scoring much in IIHF competition. Hutson played well last year, and this year he is playing even better in the NCAA than he did last year.

Hutson has been solid defensively, and today he continued that trend, but some of the offensive wizardry that he is known for emerged. He was was shifty on his skates, and his subtle feints paired with head fakes allowed him to escape and find open space in the offensive and defensive zones. He had a great assist to defence partner Ryan Chesley to tie the game against the Czechs late.

Montreal's hopeful future power play quarterback was awarded for his strong play. The Boston University Terrier product was named the Americans player of the game. Hutson played the most minutes of anybody on the team (26:16). He had a positive plus minus differential (+2).

As the level of competition grows, Hutson's play improves and he shows more of his clutch ability. Today against Czechia Hutson was brilliant, but there are certainly another few gears that he hasn't reached yet. I expect that the New Year's Eve matchup against Filip Mesar and the Slovakian squad will be a big one, and both sides will have impactful Habs prospects showing their stuff.

Laner will be just fine, just keep watching and trust.