Our next entry in a long series here at Defending Big D, in which we look ahead at each player's expectations for the upcoming season. We'll start at the bottom of the roster and work our way to the top. Today we look at defenseman Andrew Hutchinson.
#27 / Defenseman / Dallas Stars
Like Brian Sutherby, who we profiled earlier today, Andrew Hutchinson is a player who was acquired via a relatively quiet trade but who went on to become a valuable asset for the Dallas Stars during an injury ravaged season. Coming to Dallas on November 30, 2008 from the Tampa Bay Lightning, Hutchinson was primarily known as an up and down defensemen who had so far spent most of his time in the minors. Yet with Sergei Zubov facing an extending absence due to injury, the Stars felt that Hutchinson's skill set matched with what the Stars needed while he was out. What was thought to be a sort of stop-gap plug in the roster, Hutchinson became a staple on the Stars defense the rest of the season.
Hutchinson has steadily had good numbers in his minor league career, including a 64 point season with the Hartford Wolfpack in 2007-08. He has yet to be given the best chance to show that skill at the NHL level however, with limited ice time during stints Nashville, Carolina, the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay before coming to Dallas.
Watching Hutchinson in a Stars jersey last season, it's obvious that he has above average offensive skill as a defensemen. He never hesitates to put the puck on net (evidenced by his career high 56 SOG last season in 38 games) and has good vision with his passes. He's a physical defenseman who won't hesitate to use his size to make a play yet he is also an extremely disciplined defender; his 12 PIM last season were the lowest among Stars defensemen with more than 35 games played. He plays smart, has good energy and has the ability to make the plays in the offensive zone.
In short, Hutchinson is a well rounded, steady defenseman who has the ability to put up decent numbers. The question once again, is over whether he will receive the chance. Hutchinson is the 7th defenseman on the depth chart headed into this season and most likely will start the year in the AHL. Compared to the other defenseman who is on the outside looking in, Jeff Woywitka, Hutchinson's relatively cheap $550,000 salary for this season will make it easier for the Stars to pay him to play in the minors.
Hutchinson is still a valuable player in a Stars system that is hurting for defensive depth. His experience and skill level were the reason he was traded for last season and he will provide much needed depth again this season. It's unfortunate that a player with his skill set is once again on the outside looking in but like with all fringe players, he just needs to prove he is too valuable to not play in the NHL. He's shown in the AHL that he can be an offensive weapon but has yet to show that consistently at the higher level.
Our expectations for Hutchinson in 2009-10 (NHL):
43 games; 3 Goals, 6 assists, 9 Points.
What are you expecting from Hutchinson next season?