Three times Carter Hutton has gotten the call to the NHL.
Three times the Thunder Bay goalie has dressed and sat on the bench. But the former Fort William North Stars standout has yet to see any action, either with the Philadelphia Flyers, San Jose Sharks or his latest organization, the Chicago Blackhawks.
Hutton, 26, hopes things change, though the Hawks, who signed him to a two-year extension in February, have Corey Crawford and Ray Emery ahead of him on the depth charts. That said, he had an outstanding season with the Hawks AHL affiliate in Rockford, posting 22 wins in 43 games, after starting the season in the ECHL.
He had a 2.35 goals against average with the IceHogs, to go with a .917 save percentage, by far his most impressive of three seasons in the professional ranks.
“This is my third year in a row. I’ve been to Philly, San Jose and now Chicago,” Hutton said last Thursday, before teeing it up for the Northern Cancer fund at Whitewater Golf Course.
“The biggest thing this year is I played a lot of hockey games. I played 57 games and I had a really good year in the American Hockey League. I had a chance to go up and travel in the playoffs, so there’s a good chance for me to really make the mark this year in the NHL, with two guys that aren’t really runaway No. 1s in Chicago.”
It was all about developing a better attitude, which combined with more confidence, saw the ex-University of Massachusetts-Lowell product come into his own as a professional goalie.
“I knew that I should be there and I can play at that level,” he said.
Still. Hutton knows the odds are stacked against him, at least in 2012-13. The Hawks have $2.67 million tied up in Crawford’s contract, while the veteran Emery is due more than $1.1 million on the final year of his deal.
Hutton is due $525,000 if he sticks in the NHL, $80,000 if he spends the season in the AHL.
But money won’t be the deciding factor, if he has his say.
“At the end of the day, as long as I play well, the best guy’s going to play.”
Having that deal in place early in the year boosted his confidence even more, knowing the Hawks think enough of his game to want him to stick around.
Hutton joined the Flyers organization after graduating from college in 2010, then signed a free-agent deal with San Jose the following season. Given his age, security is nice.
“I’m not the youngest guy, either,” he said. “But coming in this year, right away they offered a deal and it was done within a couple of days, so that was real reassuring that they wanted me there and I wanted to be there.
“So we both kind of met pretty quickly.”
Though he was beaten to the punch by former teammate Robert Bortuzzo to become the first former Superior International Junior Hockey League graduate to play in the NHL, Hutton said it speaks volumes that the two have reached the cusp of full-time big-league work.
“For me, the SIJHL was my only option at that age,” said Hutton, who joined the K&A Golden Hawks in 2003-04, when he turned 18, spending parts of two seasons with the team before jumping to the North Stars in 2004-05.
“A lot of guys at that age feel that doors close and usually there’s no opportunity. But I stuck to it and was fortunate enough to get a scholarship and from there it kind of snowballed into a professional career. The biggest thing is to keep working hard. You can’t close doors when bad things happen. You have to stay motivated and just do it.”
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