June 12th, 2024

Lane Hutson focused on NCAA Men’s Frozen Four, but NHL looms for Canadiens prospect

By Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press on April 10, 2024.

Boston University's Lane Hutson (20) looks to pass the puck during the third period of a regional final against Minnesota in the men's NCAA college hockey tournament, Saturday, March 30, 2024, in Sioux Falls, S.D. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Josh Jurgens

Lane Hutson has never had any issue staying in the moment.

And the defenceman’s razor-sharp focus is currently on helping Boston University secure its sixth U.S. college hockey title at the NCAA Men’s Frozen Four.

Hutson, however, also knows there’s a big decision coming.

Widely viewed as the Montreal Canadiens’ top prospect, the 20-year-old could sign and have already played his first NHL game by this time next week – no matter what happens at the showcase in St. Paul, Minn.

“My thought process is I have a great opportunity in front of me to win a national championship for a school that has done so much for me,” Hutson said. “As the season concludes, you evaluate and see what your next play is or see if you want to stay.

“So many guys are in this position, but I feel like either way I’d be in a good spot.”

Hutson has the Terriers in a good spot as they head into Thursday’s semifinal against the University of Denver.

Selected by Montreal with the 62nd pick at the 2022 draft – he slid down the board due to size concerns – the five-foot-10, 162-pound blueliner from Holland, Mich., sits 11th in NCAA scoring in 2023-24 with 15 goals and 34 assists for 49 points through 37 games.

Hutson, who helped the U.S. win gold at the 2024 world junior hockey championship after taking bronze 12 months earlier, was named an alternate captain – a sophomore rarity – following last season’s 48-point freshman campaign that included a Frozen Four trip where his team lost in the semis.

“Leads by example with his play and his work ethic and his compete,” said Terriers head coach Jay Pandolfo, who had a long NHL playing career. “He feels more comfortable being vocal this year.

“He’s just growing his game. He was really good defensively in the regionals. He continues to get better there. Offensively, he’s always going to be good. A tremendous year for us.”

The same could be said for a number of players set to hit the ice at Xcel Energy Center for the annual event that will also feature a Thursday semifinal clash between Boston College and the University of Michigan. The title game goes Saturday.

The talent poised to be on display in Minnesota is jaw-dropping, with a host of players on course to have decorated NHL resumes once they turn pro.

That list is headlined by some of Hutson’s world junior teammates, including Boston College’s Will Smith (San Jose), Cutter Gauthier (Anaheim), Gabe Perreault (New York Rangers) and Ryan Leonard (Washington), along with Michigan’s Rutger McGroarty (Winnipeg).

Boston University blueliner Tom Willander (Vancouver) is a player to watch along with college teammate Macklin Celebrini – the Vancouver native expected to go No. 1 at June’s NHL draft – and Denver’s Zeev Buium, another U.S. world junior winner, ranked as the No. 4 North American skater.

“It just shows you where college hockey is as a whole,” Pandolfo said. “All four teams have guys that are going to not just have NHL careers, they’re gonna be at the top.”

Every year, NCAA stars have to balance trying to win a national title while weighing whether to stay or leave once their college season ends in tears of joy or despair.

Pandolfo has little doubt where Hutson’s head is at.

“Just how he’s wired,” said the veteran of 15 NHL seasons. “He really does take it a day at a time.”

But what’s next – potentially suiting up for the Canadiens at the Bell Centre – has definitely crossed his mind.

“Some of the smartest fans in the world,” Hutson said. “I love how they are really competitive, too. To be able to play in front of those fans someday would definitely be a goal of mine.

“And something that I can look forward to.”

But only after he looks to take care of some unfinished business.

CANUCK CONTENT

This year’s Frozen Four will see 23 Canadians compete at the home of the Minnesota Wild.

Michigan forward and Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick Nick Moldenhauer is one of them.

“To compete on a big stage and just have that chance of chasing a national championship is truly something that’s really special,” said the 19-year-old freshman from Mississauga, Ont., selected 95th overall back in 2022.

Denver, meanwhile, is backstopped by goaltender Matt Davis, an undrafted Calgary native.

“Nothing’s given at this program,” said the 20-year-old. “I had to wait two full seasons for my opportunity.

“Wanted to run with it.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 10, 2024.

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