Michael Hutchinson may have been one of the best feel-good stories to come out of Winnipeg Jets camp this season, but that season is officially over, and with a contract set to expire this summer, has the 24-year old earned himself a future with the organization?
In any sport, three games is a small sample size. In the midst of a vast 82-game NHL regular season, Hutchinson has showed his wares in only 4% of the Jets’ season.
That statistic doesn’t sound the most impressive, but if one was to dig deeper into Hutchinson’s whirlwind season, they would see just how far the NHL rookie has come.
Hutchinson started the year in the ECHL, with the Ontario Reign. It was only when an injury to St. John’s Ice Caps goaltender Jussi Olkinuora that Hutchinson finally moved up to the AHL, still one step away from his lifelong dream.
Hutchinson took the opportunity and ran, posting a 15-5-1 record in the AHL’s toughest division, helping the Ice Caps secure a playoff spot nearly two weeks before season’s end.
He finally got the call when Ondrej Pavelec went down with injury, but Al Montoya made 6 straight starts in relief, while Hutchinson sat on the bench. When Montoya went down, and the Jets were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, it was a sure thing: Hutchinson was due for his first NHL start.
That chance came on Monday night, when he suited up against the Minnesota Wild. He only allowed one goal in that game, but that was all the Wild needed for a 1-0 victory.
With a double-header looming, it seemed certain that Hutchinson would return to the crease once more for the Jets as they closed out their season. After earning his first NHL win in a start against the Boston Bruins that many didn’t think he would get, he was in goal the following night, finishing Winnipeg’s season against the Calgary Flames.
Although Hutchinson allowed three goals against, his save percentage was .921%, astounding for a rookie goaltender after playing both games of a back-to-back. Hutchinson looked solid in the crease, and aside from a few goal-mouth scrambles, was just as cool as any Jets goaltender has looked this season.
It was almost a season that never happened for Hutchinson, after being dropped by the Boston Bruins, who originally drafted him in 2008. He admitted to struggling with the decision to even return to playing hockey, but in the end, he did. Even with goaltending prospects such as Eric Comrie, Connor Hellebuyck, and Eddie Pasquale, Hutchinson signed with the Jets for a one-year deal, worth $600,000 at the AHL level.
Now, the ball is in the Jets’ court. After sticking out their hand for a goaltender just a year previous, they have to decide if he fits inside their plans for the future. With Pasquale, Comrie, Hellebuyck, and Hutchinson all under the age of 24, it seems that one (or two) goaltenders will simply have to go. With many calling for Ondrej Pavelec‘s contract to be bought out after a disappointing year, and Al Montoya also approaching Free Agency, it seems that there will be at least one spot available in the Jets’ goaltending tandem next season.
No matter what happens in the summer, it’s quite obvious that Hutchinson will be playing professional hockey next season, in the Jets’ organization or elsewhere. Even though it was only 3 games, that 4% has undoubtedly turned the heads of some NHL GMs, including the Jets’ own Kevin Chevaldayoff, and Hutchinson surely has a bright future ahead of him.
Good choice, kid.
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