Friday, April 18, 2014
ORONO — There is a piece of family lore that Ben Hutton only recently learned.
Apparently, as a beginning hockey player he was struggling with his skating, even when using a chair for assistance. Things came to a head one day when Hutton threw a tantrum while exiting the ice, smashing his stick.
“I guess after the Christmas break, I came back and something clicked. The hockey gods helped me out and I was one of the better skaters on the ice,” Hutton said.
“I don’t remember it. My parents told me this when I was home for Christmas.”
It’s certainly hard to conceive of a time when the Maine sophomore was sluggish on his skates. Hutton’s 10 goals are more than any other defenseman in the nation. Six have come on the power play. Two have been game-winners. And he’s added 12 assists to become one of the most potent scorers at his position in school history.
He’ll be key to the Black Bears’ efforts again as they host Merrimack at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Hutton has come a long way from the wobbly toddler in Prescott, Ontario, to 2012 draft pick of the Vancouver Canucks. Even his blue-line partner at Maine, senior Brice O’Connor, admits he’s sometimes in awe.
“He’s younger than me but he’s still someone I look up to with the things he can do on the ice,” O’Connor said. “He has an NHL future, no question. It’s really just how much he wants to put into it, and the sky’s the limit for him.”
KNOWS THE SCORE
Hutton grew up playing forward, and it shows. He didn’t make the switch to defense until age 16, when his junior team, Kemptville of the Central Canada Hockey League, was underperforming. Hutton told his coach that he thought he could be a bigger factor on the blue line, and the coach agreed.
“I make a good first pass out of the zone. I can help out both offensively and defensively,” Hutton said. “My heart’s a defenseman now.”
By 2012, Hutton was helping his new CCHL team, Nepean, win a title. He scored 13 points in 18 playoff games.
He had committed to Maine already, and wasn’t overly hopeful of being selected in the NHL draft after being passed over the first year he was eligible.
So when draft day arrived, he grabbed a couple of buddies and headed out on a fishing excursion.
“Sure enough, after I reeled in a bass, I got a call from Vancouver saying, ‘Hey, listen, we just drafted you,’” Hutton recalled. “And then my phone just started blowing up. My parents were watching. And then when I got back, there was a nice celebration waiting for me.
“I was already having a good day, because I caught the bass. It’s what every kid dreams about, just getting the opportunity to go to an NHL camp.”
Hutton was the Canucks’ fifth-round pick.
He has since attended two of their prospect camps, gaining confidence in his ability to compete at the pro level while also garnering tips from the Canucks’ coaching staff about what he needs to improve on at Maine. The team occasionally sends a scout to a Black Bears game for further instruction.
“They’ll say, ‘Hey, really work on your first three steps,’ or ‘Work on that first pass out of the zone,’” Hutton said.
“After the game you’re like, ‘You know what? Now that you think about it, I should have done that better.’”
POWER POINT PRODUCTION
Hutton was thrust into a prominent role immediately at Maine, scoring 15 points as a freshman and even seeing time on the power play.
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