CanucksArmy Prospect Profile 2015: #14 Ben Hutton

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Vancouver Canucks prospect Ben Hutton, a defenseman who recently completed his collegiate career with the University of Maine Black Bears,  has been on a fascinating development track since being drafted in the fifth-round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

With immense offensive upside and plus skating ability, Hutton had an extremely successful collegiate career. The defender with the tantalizing offensive skill set parlayed this success into an entry-level contract towards the end of his last campaign with the Black Bears, and even had a cup of coffee in the AHL with the Utica Comets down the home stretch. 

Some would consider the 2014-15 season a plateau in Hutton’s development. The deeper one digs though, the more positives there are to unearth. Hutton checks in at 14 in our organizational prospect ranking.

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Any disillusionment in Hutton’s development is driven, primarily, by a marked decline in his offensive production during his junior season. Given that Hutton’s plaudits are exclusive to his play in the offensive zone, this angst isn’t entirely unfounded. 

Canucks Army’s very own, Josh Weissbock, explored this in the mid-season prospect rankings, with this to say on Hutton’s decline in production…

Ben Hutton has fallen in production this year and it appears to be the result of two issues. The first is that Maine is near the bottom of their conference, while last year they were a middling team. The second is that Ben Hutton’s shooting percentage has dropped to 6.3 percent. In 28 games this year Hutton has 5 goals and 9 assists, while he is still shooting at an elite rate of 2.82 shots/game, even more impressive considering he is a defencemen.

As is often the case when a player’s production spikes ,Hutton was exceedingly lucky during the 2013-14 campaign, and then his subsequent season proved much less fortuitous. Still, Hutton was the sixth highest scoring member of the Black Bears and posted the second most shots over the course of the campaign. The Black Bears were a considerably worse team last season than they were the season prior, by both record and by the underlying metrics. Featuring in a prominent role on the Bears first pairing, it still appears as though Hutton more than carried his weight.

Hutton’s flirted with 3 shots-per-game over the course of his last two seasons. A number that high would be gaudy for a forward, but for a defenceman it’s just unheard of. 

Just to be sure though, I reached out to ESPN’s Corey Pronman to hear his thoughts on Hutton’s last season. He had this to say…

“[Hutton] has never really been a world killer as a prospect… this year showed some stagnation in terms of his play after being a top player in his conference two seasons ago. Good skating/skill combo, but one expects [Hutton] to have a long adjustment period defensively to the pace and talent level of the AHL. For now he’s a fringe NHL prospect, but we’ll see how he does in his first full season at Utica.”

When looking at the PCS model for charting prospect development, Hutton is – interestingly enough – compared to Willie Mitchell in his last campaign, among others. As I’ve gone at great length to outline so far, Hutton’s game might be the antithesis to that of Mitchell. 

Having not seen nearly as much tape on Hutton as I would like, my observations should be taken with a grain of salt. In keeping with this, I’ve tempered them greatly with that of some of the opinions of some of the more respected scouts in the industry. 

The most commonly lauded trait to Hutton’s game is his ability to push play in the right direction. He’s carried the burden of top-pairing defender nicely in Maine and has done so primarily using his first pass to drive play away from his net. His offensive ability is top notch, with flashes from his past as a forward often coming to light in the form of plays well below the oppositions hashmarks. 

Of course, as is often the case, especially with offensively-inclined defenders and doubly so in this age group, his defensive game is considered raw and in need refinement. 

Next season should be Hutton’s first full campaign with the Comets, though there will be considerable competition for jobs on the left side of the Utica blue line. A lanky defender, Hutton is likely to – at the very least – start the campaign on the Comets third pairing.

As I highlighted earlier, Hutton has already spent time with Utica, suiting up with the Comets for a four game stretch near the end of the season. In the first of these games Hutton showcased his offensive prowess with a goal on a rush into the offensive zone. 

There’s a very legitimate case to be made that Hutton in the best defensive prospect the Canucks have; particularly with Frankie Corrado effectively graduating and Adam Clendenning now in Pittsburgh. His stick-work is highly impressive and when watching Hutton play, one can’t help but notice that he’s making plays and in positions that a defender just shouldn’t be in- for better and sometimes for worse. There’s a very unique skill set here and with a little refinement, it’s not outlandish to expect him to be showcasing those skills in the NHL before long.

READ MORE 2015 PROSPECT PROFILES FROM CANUCKSARMY:

#20 – Evan McEneny

#19 – Nikita Tryamkin

#18 – Dmitri Zhukenov

#17 – Andrey Pedan

#16 – Guillaume Brisebois

#15 – Lukas Jasek



  • NJ

    I’ve been pretty down on the Canucks chances of putting together a contender with this group of prospects, but the fact that guys like Hutton are in the top 14 is pretty good. Prospects 10 to 20 usually is a wasteland of awful players, but McEneny, Zhukenov, Pedan, Brisebois, Jasek, are intriguing, credible prospects that I like. the only one I don’t care for is Trymakin.

    This group is good. Not great. Good. I’m still skeptical that the Canucks can build a contender with them, but the Canucks can change that equation with one good tank. With Miller in net, that just may be possible.

  • NJ

    I thought Hutton was one of the more impressive prospects at Shawnigan Lake. His offensive skills were clearly visible and he loved to join the rush. While he is not a physical guy, he has good size at six foot three, 210 pounds.

  • Fred-65

    I have to think that Hutton is Vcr best chnace to develop a offensive blue liner capable of playing in the NHL. I understand Subban has a lot of offense but he doesn’t have th size like Hutton does. I’d like to think he’ll fill that role pretty soon

  • WTF2

    I look forward to the upcoming season in Utica. Last year was impressive. This year should be the same. Hutton looks good, although I think Pedan will make the big club first.

    Please include the current height and weight of prospects.

  • WTF2

    nice work j.d. i think a lot of the criticism from yesterdays was valid, though a little harsh. it’s good to see you take some of it and use it to make your stuff better. this write-up is much better. always nice to see when the writers reach out to guys like pronman and others who have more information.

  • WTF2

    This is much better than yesterdays post on Jasek. This has good information and analysis.

    I have a question about the one from yesterday though, but am posting here because I doubt someone from the site will go back to yesterdays comments.

    Because the weight was wrong on Jasek, does that completely throw off the PCS analysis. I believe PCS looks at roughly same aged, same sized players from the same league as the prospect, and shows the rate of these comparable players making the NHL?

    Is weight a factor, and if so, how drastically does Jasek’s PCS change? Is the optimism for him largely because of wrong data?

    It would be great if someone could clarify this. Thanks.

    • Dirty30

      I’m pretty sure that PCS uses height (because it is much less variable from 18 onwards) rather than weight. I wondered why height was a variable but as they explained it in an earlier post it may be part of a circular logic wherein taller/bigger prospects have more of a chance to succeed simply because they have a supposedly “NHL-ready” body type as opposed to a Marty St. Louis or Ray Whitney who despite their scoring appear to be too small to really compete. What you’d hope for a Subban is that they turn out to be more of a Timmonen or a Rafalski rather than a (Yannick) Weber.

      And I’d definitely echo the earlier comments on the strength of this profile versus yesterday’s. The combination of some analytical analysis and reaching out to more traditional scouting analysis is really effective. I wonder how good Hutton can be; even on a pretty poor Maine team he was very noticeable in a handful of college games I saw him during his time there. Great skater and his wrist shot is impressive at least at the college level.