|8||1990/03/02||24||#77, 2008 (BOS)
Previous Rank: 18
There are some that seem to have given Michael Hutchinson "stop gap" status, meaning they view Hutchinson as "good enough" until the likes of Eric Comrie or Connor Hellebuyck come into play. However, this seems to sell Hutchinson and his accomplishments short.
In his draft season, Hutchinson posted the 8th best save percentage in the OHL. He followed up his successful draft year with the OHL's 5th and 7th best save percentages. Hutchinson's transition to pro-level started off rockily in the AHL, although he posted a top 10 save percentage in the ECHL when moved down. Hutchinson bounced back the next season, posting the AHL's 3rd best save percentage in his sophomore year. For the next two seasons, Hutchinson placed the 5th best save percentage in the ECHL, and both 19th (lockout year) and 4th best in the AHL.
Essentially, Hutchinson has been a top 10 goaltender at his level each of the last seven years, with the exception of one season... a lockout year where NHL goaltenders and shooters were playing in the AHL.
So, why then does he not get that much recognition as a prospect? Much of goaltending success comes from opportunity and variables outside of the goaltender's control. A goaltender has very little control over factors like shot against volume and goal for support, but these factors influence a goaltenders win percentage, and apparently also affects hockey managements.
In his draft season Hutchinson took over the starting job. He then was forced to share starts despite a top 5 save percentage, due to his competitor being another top 5 save percentage goaltender. Hutchinson had a losing record that year, but his TOI competition had a winning record. The next year Hutchinson was traded away to a stronger team, won a ton of games and was credited for turning his game around, despite posting a similar save percentage and actually worse relative to the league than the year prior.
In Hutchinson's sophomore AHL season was spent mostly on the bench, despite a top 4 save percentage. Hutchinson posted a 0.927 sv% (similar to Ben Bishop, Jacob Markstrom, and Ben Scrivens), but finished with a 13-14-1 record. Hutchinson's teammate Anton Khubodin meanwhile posted a 0.919 save percentage and a 21-19-3 record. One year later and Hutchinson was let go to make room for "blue-chip pedigree" Malcolm Subban.
Yes, it is true that goaltenders are voodoo, but Hutchinson has proven his worth multiple times on multiple levels. Hutchinson has earned a shot to be a difference maker in the NHL, which is why he is viewed so highly here as the highest ranked non-first-round pick.
AIH Authors' Thoughts:
Michael Hutchinson may be the best goalie in the Winnipeg Jets' system. He has done everything there is to do at the junior and AHL levels and he is ready for a real shot at NHL action. His game is generally calm and composed, but this doesn't prevent him from making his share of highlight reel saves. Tall, slender and athletic - simply put, pucks don't get by Hutch often.
Hutch could potentially emerge as Chevy’s best acquisition that was pretty under the radar at the time. But all the big netminder did was post incredible numbers in the AHL while carrying his team to the Calder Cup Final and even looking great in a three-game NHL trial. His AHL numbers are lights out, so if he can turn that into NHL results we’d all be very pleased. Well, everyone except Ondrej, I suppose...
Whether it be Chevy or Zinger, someone did well picking up Hutchinson. Maybe dumb/blind luck or maybe pure genious, but the results are all the same.
Goaltender development is a fickle thing and it is tough to bank on anything. We are in a world where goaltenders of the highest draft pedigree fail to become NHL difference makers, while many undrafted net-minders become some of the NHL's best. Hopefully Hutchinson can make something of it.
Michael Hutchinson is big, quick, calm in goal and reads plays well. He's performed well at every level he's played at and will likely begin the season as the Jets' backup goaltender. While Hutchinson has outperformed Pavelec at nearly every age and level to date, my remaining concern is that Hutchinson hasn't yet handled a really heavy workload at the highest levels. He likely won't need to this season, but depending on how things go it's possible that he could steal starts from Ondrej Pavelec over the course of the season.
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