What to expect from top Canadiens prospect Lane Hutson


With top prospect Lane Hutson now signing his entry-level contract with the Montreal Canadiens, fans finally have the opportunity to see the highly touted player in an NHL setting.

Here's what Habs fans can expect from one of the most exciting prospects in franchise history.

Lane Hutson is creative

The first thing fans notice is that Hutson always tries to turn any situation into a scoring opportunity. He uses his creativity and top-notch deception to make plays that surprise defending players. He is particularly adept at exploiting chaotic situations such as poor line changes or gaps in the defense.

One of his greatest strengths is his ability to quickly retrieve pucks in the defensive zone and pass the game with a quick pass to a waiting teammate on the ice. When no escape options are available, Hutson takes matters into his own hands by creating a controlled entry into the offensive zone, completing the puck-moving defenseman's hat trick.

Lane Hutson creates time and space

Hutson's greatest strength in the NCAA was how much space he created for his teammates, especially during the man advantage.

There is no standard for how to attract defenders, but if there was one, Hutson would probably be among the league leaders. His ability to get past the blue line not only opens up passing lanes, but also forces the defending team to change their defensive lineup.

That’s when Hutson is at his best.

He will sow chaos and quickly exploit the resulting confusion.

Meanwhile, his teammates simply have to use organized chaos to find open ice, ideally in a high-danger shooting area.

He loves to shift the momentum to the left and then continue it with either a cross-ice pass to the right side of the rink or a quick release from the point once the coverage starts moving.

You will find that these pieces are not always successful.

Hutson sometimes misreads coverage or perhaps loses the puck, but such is life for a player whose main focus is scoring points.

Lane Hutson is entertaining

Habs fans can expect Hutson to bring some flair.

He's no stranger to attempting one, two or even three Spin-O-Ramas in the same shift. Of course, he's not just spinning around on the ice because it looks damn cool, although that's an advantage.

He does it to quickly get to an area of ​​the ice where there are better shooting and passing lanes.

Lane Hutson will join Juraj Slafkovksy in producing

Hutson's presence on the power play should lead to big success for the youngest player in the lineup, Juraj Slafkovsky.

Slafkovsky doesn't have the same raw shooting talent as Macklin Celebrini, the player Hutson set up for easy goals dozens of times this season for the Boston University Terriers, but he has shown a penchant for scoring one-off goals on the power play, meaning that we could immediately see a certain chemistry between the 20-year-old players.

This is also good news for the Canadiens' power play in general.

If both Slafkovsky and Hutson can become strong scorers, players like Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki will have more time and space in the offensive zone. As it stands, Caufield and Suzuki are already producing on power plays despite a lack of time and space.

Lane Hutson is confident

Chances are Hutson will become more selective with his decisions in the NHL. The talent discrepancy between Hutson and the majority of NCAA players doesn't translate to the NHL, at least not immediately.

But once Hutson gets comfortable with his new setup, Canadiens fans could be treated to an endless stream of games Highlight reel Plays that remind them of some of the many legends who have already written their chapter in the team's ever-growing book of hockey excellence.

The rumors about his skating problems have been greatly exaggerated

Hutson isn't an elite skater in the sense that he can't compete with a player like Nate MacKinnon or Cale Makar, but the pre-draft criticism surrounding his skating appears to have been overblown to some extent.

This is often the case in the run-up to the draft. A scout will question a player's skating ability in October, and by the time the draft is announced, the criticism has piled up into a sea of ​​hyperbole suggesting that the player in question took skating lessons from Jason Allison.

Hutson is notably a somewhat awkward skater, as he tends to stay a bit high during his first few steps.

His acceleration isn't a strength, but his anticipation allows him to hold off opposing forwards trying to score on the rush, and his edge work has improved by leaps and bounds since his first NCAA debut.

Lane Hutson isn't perfect

The most important thing for Habs fans to keep in mind is that Hutson is far from a perfect player. He has a unique skill set, but you shouldn't expect him to jump into the lineup and immediately improve every aspect of the Canadiens' game.

He carries the puck more often than most. He will lose it sometimes. He will also get caught out of position, especially when opposing teams establish a sustained cycle in the Canadiens' zone.

He initially needs protected use, limited ice time and advantageous situations. Expect head coach Martin St-Louis to introduce him to the frigid waters of professional hockey.

He will have to adapt to the lack of time in the NHL, which means he will have to execute his plays much faster than in the NCAA. Starts in the offensive zone are appropriate, as is a reliable defensive partner.

Since he is the team's de facto mentor, David Savard will likely be tasked with acting as Hutson's sidekick during the final two games of the year. Savard is not the ideal long-term partner for Hutson. That may end up being David Reinbacher, but in the meantime, Savard is an excellent communicator and an approachable veteran, which should help Hutson adjust to the new conditions on and off the ice.

Cover art above Annik Lemire.