The Vancouver Canucks have signed Maine junior defenseman Ben Hutton to an NHL entry-level contract, as first reported by Whitneigh Kinne of WCSH 6 in Portland. A fifth round selection by the Canucks in the 2012 NHL Draft, Hutton is an offensive defenseman who skates well and has the ability to start the breakout.
Hutton, a 2013-14 All-American, saw his numbers regress in his third season in Orono, but he's still a player with offensive upside from the blue line. The Prescott, Ontario native had nine goals and 12 assists in 39 games played this season. He finished his Black Bears career with 28 goals and 37 assists in 108 games.
Hutton had a better season in his own zone last season compared to this recent one where he struggled at times. He finished with a team worst -15 plus/minus and was caught flat-footed and out of position on numerous occasions. It's possible a change of scenery and a move to the AHL will allow for his defensive game to develop further. Hutton will report to the Utica Comets, the organization's AHL affiliate, immediately.
Hutton joins classmate Devin Shore in leaving the Black Bear program with a year of eligibility left. Shore signed with the Dallas Stars last week and has begun playing for the organization's AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars.
Jeff Cox covers college, junior, high school and prep hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.