Logan Hutsko was doing it all right. As a teenager, he played at Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep school, the alma mater of Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews. After that, he earned entry into USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, where he was hot-housed with the some of the best teens in the nation. But the path to the NHL is never easy and for Hutsko, his two years with the NTDP ended up being the most foreboding of his life.
A native of Tampa, Hutsko and his family moved around several times during his youth, as his father works in the private equities industry. First, it was eight years in Pittsburgh, then four in Toronto, then New Jersey after that. Hutsko’s hockey career took him to Minnesota for Shattuck’s, then Michigan for the NTDP.
Midway through his first season with Team USA, Hutsko was practising faceoffs with a teammate during pre-game warm-ups. Hutsko got bodied on the draw and in a fluke accident, his neck went into his fellow center’s chest. His neck was broken.
Specifically, one of the rings around Hutsko’s spinal cord was fractured and the recovery time was pegged at five months. But after a month, Hutsko got some frightening news.
“After a month, there was no progress and the doctor sat me down for a talk,” he said. “He said I might not play again. I didn’t know what to do with myself. It was a long, long process of hoping it would heal.”
Luckily, Hutsko’s body reacted and four months later, he was healed. Technically speaking, of course. Hockey is a rough game and even though Hutsko is known for his offensive skill, he still had to be physically prepared to absorb contact once he got back on the ice. Not only that, but there was the mental hurdle to clear of whether or not the next hit would break him again. Hutsko had a good summer and entered his NHL draft year with a lot of hope. Then came an early-season matchup between his NTDP under-18s and the Boston University Terriers.
Hutsko took an awkward hit against the college team and cracked his kneecap. Incredibly, the incident would end up costing him more season than the neck fracture. There was a misdiagnosis, an injury during rehab and then surgery, which obviously required its own recovery period. While NTDP mates such as Josh Norris and Grant Mismash were showing off their games for NHL scouts, Hutsko was sidelined with his second major injury in two years.
“It was definitely hard watching all my teammates go through the draft process,” Hutsko said. “I just had to sit back and be patient.”
After seven rounds at the 2017 draft, Hutsko’s name remained on the board.
Committed to Boston College, the young man had a choice to make. Having missed most of the past two seasons, he considered playing a year of junior in the USHL to get is scoring touch back, but he also wanted to help the Eagles as soon as possible. Assistant coach Mike Ayers had recruited him to Boston College, so Hutsko rang him up.
“I called coach Ayers and said I wanted to help anyway I could, even if it was on the fourth line,” he said. “I came in with the intention of playing any role.”
Having lost their top-five scorers from the year before (including NHL picks Colin White and Ryan Fitzgerald), the Eagles definitely had an opportunity for Hutsko. The freshman began this season as the fourth line’s left winger before moving up to third-line right winger. Right around Christmas, he moved to second-line center and then finally, first-line right winger with Julius Mattila and Carolina pick David Cotton.
That final move allowed Hutsko to be more offensive-minded and he finished the season with 19 points in his last 16 games. All told, Hutsko racked up 31 points in 37 games to lead the Eagles. Not bad for a freshman.
Now, NHL teams are circling again for the draft. Hutsko was not invited to the NHL draft combine earlier this month, so Boston College helped him hold his own workout on campus (this also allowed him to keep up with his summer course work for school). On the same day as the combine, Hutsko did similar agility and strength exercises for 12 NHL teams, including Toronto, Boston, Pittsburgh and Montreal.
“There were a couple teams worried about my past injuries, so they wanted to check off those boxes,” he said. “I’d say it was mission accomplished.”
Hutsko had class in the morning, the workout in the early afternoon and then a macro economics exam two hours later. It was a busy day, but we’ll find out in Dallas how much it paid off.