Hutton propels NCAA to pro career

As a senior back in 2009-10 at NCAA D-I UMass-Lowell, Thunder Bay’s Carter Hutton earned Hockey East goaltending champion laurels while being named a second-team conference all-star. Photo: UML Athletics

the opportunity last week to break the news that goaltender Carter Hutton was announcing his retirement from the National Hockey League, one can’t help but be impressed by the massive strides he continually made, throughout his career, to play the game at the highest level.

Starring for the Fort William North Stars in his final year of junior hockey back in 2005-06, Hutton backstopped his club to both a Bill Salonen and a Dudley-Hewitt Cup championship, earning a berth to the Jr. A national event in Brampton, Ont.

The SIJHL top netminder award honouree did his part in getting the North Stars all the way to the semifinal round where they fell in overtime to the eventual winners from Burnaby, B.C.

Despite a tremendous campaign, Hutton’s future playing options appeared to be limited, when a case of happenstance interceded and generated an opportunity that the netminder would take full advantage of.

That came about when the University of Massachusetts-Lowell men’s program saw their No. 1 goalkeeper opt to transfer schools, leaving the Hockey East school in a quandary, as they were in the lurch in the off-season, looking to try and find a replacement.

With that came about a quality scouting report, from a trusted former colleague, to the River Hawks head coach, which in turn led to Hutton securing a late NCAA Division I scholarship, the only U.S. collegiate offer he was to receive.

Taking full advantage of the chance that came his way, he continued to blossom throughout his four years in New England.

Capping off his senior season at UMass-Lowell, Hutton was recognized by being named conference goaltending champion after finishing with the best goals-against average (2.04) and save percentage (.928) among Hockey East netminders, in overall play. He also topped the league with four shutouts and was selected as a conference Second Team All-Star.

In discussing his collegiate career, which wrapped-up in 2010, Hutton offered: “In the preparation for the NCAA, you never know when and how things will work out. I truly believe that was the biggest opportunity in my career and from there, I really took advantage of it.”

Savouring his time at the school in Lowell, Mass., he looks back fondly at his four-year stint there.

“The atmosphere and crowds were always so fun with the chants and school bands playing,” he said with aplomb.

Leaving UML as their all-time career leader in shutouts (10), average (2.33) and setting the program’s single-season record for save percentage (.928) his contributions while competing for the River Hawks, if anything, certainly raised his confidence level and overall competitiveness on the ice.

“As the goalie, I felt a lot of the pressures of the crowd, which was a big change for me and a test of the mental side of my game,” Hutton provided.

He went on to add: “I think there was a time where I realized there were so many other goalies from the Hockey East conference that had continued on to have great NHL careers. That was eye-opening to me how far I had come and instilled belief in myself to be able make the next level.”

Following his time in the NCAA, his play between the pipes earned him an amateur tryout with the AHL’s Adirondack Phantoms where he finished with a respectable save-mark of .921.

He also went on to get his first taste of the NHL on March 28, 2010 by serving as the back-up for the Philadelphia Flyers in a home win over the New Jersey Devils.

Next would come an entry-level deal with the NHL’s San Jose Sharks where he spent the 2010-11 season with their AHL-affiliate, the Worcester Sharks.

Moving on from there, it was the Chicago Blackhawks that inked him to a deal the following year.

Starting off in the ECHL with the Toledo Walleye, he was eventually called up to Chicago’s farm team, the Rockford IceHogs.

Shining in Rockford, Hutton went on to earn IceHogs’ Most Valuable Player laurels, winning 22 games while setting a franchise single-season goals-against average record of 2.35.

Appearing in nearly 100 contests with Rockford, over two years, he earned a late call-up and made his first NHL start in the Blackhawks final regular season outing, back on April 27, 2013, in a road outing at St. Louis.

A couple of months later Chicago went on to win it all with Hutton along for ride, on their taxi squad, and also receiving a Stanley Cup ring.

Next week: Carter Hutton’s progression to a full-time NHLer begins in July of 2013 after signing with the Nashville Predators.