Ben Hutton’s rapid rise a fine surprise for Canucks

 

Rookie defender shrugs off monster minutes, credits teammate Tanev for early success

 
 
 
 
Vancouver Canuck Ben Hutton is congratulated by fellow defencemen Chris Tanev (left) and Matt Bartkowski after scoring his first career NHL goal against the New York Islanders on Jan. 17, 2016 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Hutton has since teamed up with the steady Tanev as his blue-line partner.
 

Vancouver Canuck Ben Hutton is congratulated by fellow defencemen Chris Tanev (left) and Matt Bartkowski after scoring his first career NHL goal against the New York Islanders on Jan. 17, 2016 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Hutton has since teamed up with the steady Tanev as his blue-line partner.

Photograph by: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

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Like nearly everyone else, Jim Benning was wondering if it could last.

The Canucks’ GM suspected that at some point rookie defenceman Ben Hutton might hit a wall, lose some confidence and begin to struggle with his game.

Instead, the opposite seems to have happened. Hutton is continuing to play like a seasoned veteran and he is playing more than ever.

Moved to the Canucks’ top pairing alongside Chris Tanev with the injury to Alex Edler, Hutton is logging monster minutes and holding his own against the opposition’s top forwards. Lately, he has also been quarterbacking the No. 1 power-play unit.

“We knew he was going to be an NHL player and we thought he was going to grow into a top-four guy,” Benning said Friday. “I guess the biggest surprise is how fast he has grown in such a short period of time in his overall game.

“From when we saw him in training camp to when we decided we were going to keep him, we kept waiting for him to step back in his play. But he just keeps growing and getting better. He has been a pleasant surprise, to say the least.”

Hutton logged a game-high 26 minutes in Thursday night’s 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks. The Prescott, Ont., native has played 20 or more minutes in his last 10 games. In his first 46 games as a Canuck, he topped 20 minutes only seven times.

“Honestly, I haven’t been trying to think about my ice time at all,” he said. “I try to go out and play my game, stay consistent and if at the end of the night there’s a lot of minutes played, I’m happy. It’s good.”

Hutton knows he has stepped up in weight class by joining Tanev on the top pairing. More times than not, they are facing the opposition’s top guns.

“I’ve definitely noticed,” he said Friday before the Canucks left for San Jose. “Going against guys like Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, you have to be so aware of them on the ice because you know at any moment they can turn a switch and make a play. It definitely does change things a bit.”

Hutton said he has leaned heavily on Tanev. He said the two talk “24/7,” which isn’t much of an exaggeration considering they are roommates in Vancouver.

“Chris has been huge. He is talking to me 24/7, whether it’s on the ice and he’s telling me to jump up and shut the guy down at the blue, or if he’s talking to me on the bench and telling me on the breakout we can do this next time. He has been great.

“And as roommates, we get to talk about things at home as well. We are pretty tight, so if he has something to say to me, he’s not afraid to say it. And it helps.”

With 19 points, Hutton stands third in the NHL among rookie defencemen. He thinks he has more to give offensively, especially in the goal department. He has just one goal so far this season.

“I have been getting some points here and there and I think I have got more in me,” he said. “I have only got one goal this year, I’d like to see that increase. I have had my chances to put the puck in the net, I am hitting posts and stuff like that.”

Tonight, Hutton will make his first regular-season visit to the Shark Tank. He said playing in rinks for the first time has been one of the real thrills of his rookie season.

“When I get to a new arena, usually the first thing I do is I’ll drop my bag off, I’ll change and go right out to the ice surface and see what it looks like and take it all in,” he said. “It’s pretty cool to get to all these new areas and stuff.”

Pretty cool is a good description of Hutton’s rookie season. He arrived at the Young Stars tourney in Penticton last fall as something of an unknown quantity. Not even he could have imagined he’d be where he is now.

It has been an amazing whirlwind all season,” he said. “Just coming in to Penticton to the Young Stars tournament and cracking the roster and moving my way up with ice time and stuff like that. It has been amazing. I have no complaints. It has been great so far.”

ICE CHIPS: Benning said he is continuing to negotiate with the agent for defenceman Nikita Tryamkin. The 21-year-old Russian, who is 6-8 and 240 pounds, was selected 66th overall in the third round of the 2014 draft by the Canucks and just completed his season with Yekaterinburg Automobilist of the KHL. Benning hopes to sign Tryamkin and get him to Vancouver to play a few games, but first has to have him released from his KHL contract, which does not expire until April 30.

bziemer@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/bradziemer

 
 
 
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Vancouver Canuck Ben Hutton is congratulated by fellow defencemen Chris Tanev (left) and Matt Bartkowski after scoring his first career NHL goal against the New York Islanders on Jan. 17, 2016 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Hutton has since teamed up with the steady Tanev as his blue-line partner.
 

Vancouver Canuck Ben Hutton is congratulated by fellow defencemen Chris Tanev (left) and Matt Bartkowski after scoring his first career NHL goal against the New York Islanders on Jan. 17, 2016 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Hutton has since teamed up with the steady Tanev as his blue-line partner.

Photograph by: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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