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Lane Hutson's Skill Trumps His Small Frame

Drafted in the second round by Montreal, some scouts think Lane Hutson had top 10 potential if it wasn't for his size. Hutson is looking to show the Canadiens made the right choice in taking the talented two-way blueliner.
Lane Hutson

MONTREAL - Lane Hutson has spent most of his early career answering questions about his size.

He's 5-foot-8 and 158 pounds, making him one of the smallest players taken during the NHL draft. Compared to Montreal's first pick, 6-foot-4 Juraj Slafkovsky, you can't help but laugh.

"If he was 6-foot-2, he'd be a top-10 pick in the draft," a scout said about Hutson. And when you watch him, it's understandable why. He's practically a fourth forward on the ice with the way he generates scoring opportunities. He's speedy, isn't afraid to go 1-on-1 against much bigger competition and can move the puck as well as just about any defenseman in the draft.

You can appreciate the concern there for the mobile, puck-moving defensemen. Hutson was a favorite among the team at The Hockey News for his ability to bring offense to the table and keep opponents guessing with his patience with the puck.

"He has some very special attributes as a player," USA coach Dan Muse said during the 2021 U-18 World Championship. "He has a lot of confidence. He's great on his edges, the way he can break the puck out, the way he can move the puck up the ice."

It's not like the Canadiens are strangers to small players. Cole Caufield is 5-foot-9. Brendan Gallagher has been one of the team's mainstays for the past decade at 5-foot-0. Sean Farrell, one of USA's best players at the Olympics, is 5-foot-9. Heck, their coach is Martin St. Louis. 

If any team knows how to deal with smaller, skilled skaters, it's Montreal. And Hutson is confident he'll continue to grow and get stronger before turning pro.

"I know I can get bigger, stronger, faster and even taller, and that's something that will come as I get older," Hutson said. "I think, either way, I'll be able to play the game I've been playing. It's all about how you play the game, not how big you are. When you get on the ice, everyone's the same size."

Hutson showed very well at the NHL draft combine. He finished second to Jack Hughes in the consecutive pull-ups category, seventh in the bench press test at 50 percent of his body weight and eighth in the windgate bike test, considered one of the most important tests of the combine.

"He really turned some heads," a scout said. "He checks all the boxes, off and off the ice, outside of physicality.

Hutson said Torey Krug is his favorite player to watch, and compares himself to Krug and Adam Fox from a stylistic perspective. Krug, 5-foot-9 himself, went undrafted before becoming a star with Boston and St. Louis. Krug didn't let his small frame slow him down, and he's now one in the midst of an expensive seven-year deal with the Blues.

Lane comes from a big hockey family. His dad, Rob, spent four years with the University of Illinois-Chicago of the NCAA before embarking on a minor pro career. His older brother, Quinn Hutson, is headed to Boston University. His youngest brother, Cole, will play for the USNTDP U-17 program next year and is eligible for the 2024 NHL draft. 

So, the natural ability is there. How does Hutson stack up against the best the USNTDP program has had to offer? His 63-point campaign this year is second all-time by a defenseman in a single season, trailing Cam York by two points and beating Adam Fox and Quinn Hughes. All time, York (103) is the only player to have more points than Hutson's 90. So, truly, what we're seeing from Hutson is the ability to be a big-time offensive producer, despite the size concerns.

"I feel like the way I use my skating and my stick to my advantage, and the way I use my leverage against the bigger guys, it's something I really pride myself in," Hutson said.

If Hutson is going to be the impactful player many believe he can be at the next level, he'll have to leverage every advantage he can. The raw skill is there, the numbers are there, and the opportunity is coming when he steps onto the ice with Boston University next season. The NCAA's schedule allows for smaller players to take more time to develop and grow physically, which will do wonders for Hutson's development. Expect him to add some muscle to his frame, and once he does, he's going to show why he has the potential to be one of the best steals of the draft.

Bank on it.

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