2021-22 Team: USNTDP Juniors (USHL)
Date of Birth: February 14, 2004
Place of Birth: Chicago, IL
Ht: 5-foot-8 Wt: 148 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2022 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 31st (amongst NA skaters)
- FC Hockey: 40th
- Recruit Scouting: 44th
- Peter Baracchini’s March Rankings: 43rd
- Andrew Forbes’ March Rankings: 43rd
- Matthew Zator’s April Rankings: 45th
- Smaht Scouting: 33rd
- Bob McKenzie’s (TSN) Rankings: 72nd
- Dobber Prospects April Rankings: 53rd
- McKeen’s Hockey: 63rd
- Craig Button’s (TSN) March Rankings: 56th
As one of the smaller defensemen in this year’s draft class, Lane Hutson will face an uphill battle to make it to the NHL. However, with the continuing success of players like Jared Spurgeon (5-foot-9), Quinn Hughes (5-foot-10) and Cale Makar (5-foot-10), who get by on elite skating, edges and hockey IQ, he might just have a chance at stardom one day. Why? Because Hutson has all that in his toolbox as well.
Related: THW 2022 NHL Draft Guide
Blessed with impressive mobility, NHL-level passing and a workman-like attitude consistent with all smaller players, Hutson definitely has the tools to overcome his lack of size. Described as somewhat of a “unicorn” by U.S. NTDP U18 assistant coach Nick Fohr, he is a well-rounded player who defends well and generates offence despite being the shortest and lightest defenceman on the team.
“He’s a super talented kid and he sees the game differently. He’s a bit of a unicorn and that’s a good thing. He’s super valuable for us. He plays a lot of minutes and I think he’s really undervalued defensively. He actually defends very well for a little guy and he’s got to do it differently because he’s smaller but he does it and he works at it and he takes pride in it. Everyone sees the flash, and the deception, and the big shots, and the distributing pucks, but they don’t always see him playing the other end and he plays super hard in that other end.”
His head coach, Adam Nightingale, continued the praise by saying, “I think he’s a really good defender…One of the reasons why is because he’s interested in defending. Sometimes when you’ve got a young, skilled defenseman, they don’t see that as a big thing. He values it and he’s got as good a stick as I’ve ever seen. And he’s smart. He’ll strip guys, he’s very strong on the puck for his size, he’s competitive at the puck. And the fact that he’s committed to doing it and he’s got the skill set to do it, you end up being a good defender” (from ‘Who is Lane Hutson, the 2022 NHL Draft’s ‘unicorn’ 5-foot-8 defenseman?’, Scott Wheeler, The Athletic, 3/11/22).
Clearly, his coaches love his game and what he brings to the rink every night. His strengths obviously lie in his skating and mobility, as those are the first things you notice when you watch him in a game. He also has a very good first pass and is always a threat in transition whether it be through his skating or playmaking abilities. He may not have the size of a top-end prospect like Denton Mateychuk, Simon Nemec or his teammates Ryan Chesley and Seamus Casey, but he definitely has the hockey IQ, skating and passing talents of a top-10 pick. If he was 6-foot-2, I have no doubt scouts would be talking about him in the same breath as Nemec and the like.
Despite the aforementioned otherworldly talents, Hutson still needs to gain a few pounds of muscle to compete with the tougher competition in the NCAA when he joins Boston University in 2023-24. Even though he’s elusive and gets the puck and himself out of trouble more often than not, he will need to hold his own when bigger, more physical forwards like Matthew Tkachuk come in on the forecheck and try to bully him into submission. Knowing him and his work ethic and problem-solving abilities, he will probably deal with that in due course though.
Other THW Draft Profiles
Lane Hutson – NHL Draft Projection
The general consensus around the prospect community is that Hutson will be an early to mid-second-round pick. The only expert that has him outside that range is Bob McKenzie (72nd) who has pushed him into the early third. His size will of course be a sticking point for many teams, but considering the beyond elite skating talent and next-level hockey IQ he possesses, that shouldn’t be a reason to leave him on the board after the second round. You can’t teach hockey IQ after all. As such, I think a team will take a chance on him in the second round at some point.
“Hutson has excellent mobility and it’s a credit to his crossovers and edge work. He can generate open space for himself and shake off attackers with his mobility. Good outside edges when doubling back in the neutral zone as he had run into traffic in the neutral zone and looks to double back to find an open teammate on the opposite side. Good inside edges to pivot out of pressure along the blue line. Hutson does a good job of leaning on his edges when turning his body to react to puck movement. By leaning on his edges, it allows him to retain speed and that makes him far more likely to generate open ice for himself.” – Josh Tessler, Smaht Scouting
“Hutson is so smooth with his starts and stops and he can make smart plays at high speed. There’s nothing outstanding about his wrist or slap shot, but he can dangle the puck like a skilled winger and his teammates aren’t afraid to get the puck back to him often because Hutson will typically make it work.” – Steven Ellis, The Hockey News
“Two things immediately jump off the screen when you watch Hutson play – his exceptional skating ability and his size, or lack thereof. He is light on his feet and can chew up a lot of ice in a short time, eluding checks with shoulder fakes and quick weight transfers to skate the puck out of trouble or create passing lanes on the breakout. He sees the ice well and identifies his options early to help drive play for his team from the backend with heads-up passes. In the offensive zone, his elite footwork allows him to control the blue line and freeze defenders in order to create space to attack with his passing ability…” – Nick Richard, Dobber Prospects
“I think I’m a two-way, 200-foot defenseman who can contribute offensively. And knows the defensive responsibilities. I think I’m a mobile guy who can find space and find the open guy and create plays up the ice.” – Lane Hutson in an interview on the Pipeline Show
- Good in transition
- Two-way play
- Hockey IQ
- Work ethic
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
With the tools Hutson has in his still-developing toolbox, his ceiling could be as high as a top-pairing two-way defenceman like the similarly-sized Spurgeon of the Minnesota Wild. If not that, he will still become a solid bottom-pair guy who should be able to jump into the top four when needed. In either case, he will be a supreme threat on the power play and a good all-around defender due to his hockey IQ, good stick and elite skating talent.
Risk – 4/5, Reward – 5/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offence – 8/10, Defence – 7/10
Hutson played at the 2021 U18 World Championship and was named a top-three player on Team USA at the end of the tournament. He finished with a solid five assists in five games.