Prospect Snap Shot will be a semi-regular column that highlights one Winnipeg Jets prospect's recent performance or asks and answers one prospect related question. If you have question or angle that you would like covered, feel free to let us know in the comment section or ask us via the @arcticicehockey Twitter feed.
On July 19th of 2013 Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff inked former Boston Bruins prospect Michael Hutchinson to a one year contract. The deal was signed to little fanfare and many wrote it off as a minor league move, but in the long run it may prove to be quite the savvy pickup.
Michael Hutchinson is a 23 years old former 3rd round pick (77th overall, 2008) of the Boston Bruins who fell victim to a numbers game in Providence. The Providence Bruins came into this (2013-14) season with incumbent starter Niklas Svedberg recent first round pick Malcolm Subban set to share the workload. Hutchinson had been with the team for three seasons and had yet to force his way into a starting job. In their eyes he became expendable.
Expendable? That doesn't sound good does it? Well, there are a few things to consider. Fist of all, Malcom Subban is considered by some to be among the top goaltending prospects in hockey. He was drafted to be the future of Bruins goaltending and his minutes were all but guaranteed. Meanwhile, Svedberg is a highly touted young goalie himself and he was coming off of a dominant season in which he posted a .925 save percentage along with a 37-8-2 record. As a point of reference, Michael Hutchinson had posted a .914 while going 13-13-3 that year - not mind-blowingly good (ranked 26th among goalies with 20+ starts), but also not bad.
Another factor, both Subban and Svedberg were under contract for the upcoming season, Hutchinson was not. Keeping Subban and Svedberg was the logical play for the Boston Bruins.
If he wasn't good enough to play there, why should we be optimistic?
Well, let's take a look at some numbers:
- Apart from a somewhat rocky first season, Michael Hutchinson has consistently posted solid numbers in the AHL.
- Low start totals leave a lot of room for variance.
Numbers in a vacuum don't tell us much, let's look at a direct comparison - Hutchinson (above) vs Svedberg:
- Nik and Mike have posted darn similar career save percentages.
- While save percentage is largely the same, win totals are very very different. Goal support much?
- It isn't unusual to see wins and losses trump other metrics over a relatively small sample. One has to wonder how much variance and goal support factored into the decision to let Hutchinson walk.
- It will be interesting to see how Hutchinson and Svedberg compare down the road.
- Hutch has stopped more pucks (as a percentage) over the last three seasons, but Nik has a far better win percentage.
More comparisons! How does Hutch look relative to others in the Winnipeg Jets system?
- Hutch has posted better numbers than every other - is or would be Winnipeg Jets netminder across his AHL career.
- AHL save percentage isn't a guarantee of success at the next level, but it surely doesn't hurt.
- Hutchinson has posted top 10 numbers twice (incl. this year) in the last three AHL seasons.
- The fact that Hutch has posted quality number across multiple teams and in multiple leagues can't be a bad sign.
So what do all these numbers mean?
The numbers mean, Winnipeg Jets prospect Michael Hutchinson has done a pretty good job of stopping pucks at every level in which he has played. His numbers have placed him in the top 10 of the OHL, ECHL and AHL over the last handful of seasons. We don't know if these numbers will carry forward to the next level, but - as always - a proven ability to produce is never a negative.
In the short term, an unfortunate season ending injury to Eddie Pasquale has given Hutchinson the reins to the what should be a playoff team. He will be in charge of back-stopping the St. John's IceCaps into the playoffs and ideally through a deep playoff run. With a strong performance he may earn himself serious consideration for a one way deal and (at least) NHL backup duty.
So far so good.
Through his first 16 games with the IceCaps, Michael Hutchingson has posted a .922 save percentage, a goals against average of 2.40 and a record of 10-4-1. He is also coming of a rock solid performance in which he stopped 49 of 50 shots against to steal a victory from the Worcester Sharks. Early returns are solid. Let's hope he can keep it up.
Hutch is at the age in which many goalies transition to the NHL, he will be waiver eligible next season. Odds are we will get a look at him sooner rather than later. Given the issues the Winnipeg Jets' have had with goaltending across their first three seasons a boost would be welcome. Michael Hutchinson provides some reason for optimism.