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Ben Hutton Has Played A Huge Role In VGK’s Defensive Turnaround

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Veteran defenseman Ben Hutton played 31 of the Golden Knights’ first 38 games this season. The game before the Winter Classic he went down with an injury that not only cost him a few months of game-action, but it also ended up costing him his spot in the lineup. Hutton returned to health about six weeks after his injury yet he was forced to watch from the press box for another month while Vegas’ “preferred six defensemen” played together.

Like every 7th defenseman in the NHL though, his time eventually came. After the Trade Deadline, the Golden Knights were experiencing a bit of a swoon and Bruce Cassidy decided it was time to shake things up. On an afternoon home game at T-Mobile Arena, Cassidy healthy scratched both Nic Hague and Zach Whitecloud which opened the door for Hutton to re-enter the line. Seven games, five of which were VGK wins, later, and Hutton has made it impossible for his coach to take him out.

In 104 minutes of action at 5-on-5, Hutton has racked up a +4 rating being on the ice for five VGK goals while conceding just one, he’s amassed a 67.4% expected goals share which is good for 6th on the team in that span, and has been on the ice for 18 high-danger chances with just four against.

Of course, it’s not a completely direct correlation as Hutton is just one of six defensemen. Still, the Golden Knights have put together one of their best defensive stretches starting with the game Hutton came back into the lineup. They’ve allowed two or fewer goals in five of the last seven games and have held the opposition under 25 shots four times.

Hutton’s partnership with Zach Whitecloud has worked great as both players’ metrics are up across the board playing with each other as opposed to without.

At the deadline, it became clear the Golden Knights needed help on the blue line. Alec Martinez, Nic Hague, and Zach Whitecloud were all struggling. The big change was bringing in Noah Hanifin and he’s been excellent since the first moment he donned a gold jersey. But the work of the other defenseman who came into the lineup at the same time cannot be ignored either.

Whenever Alex Pietrangelo gets over his illness and can rejoin the team, the decision on who he’ll replace is going to be a tough one. Hutton has already unseated Martinez, don’t be surprised if he stays ahead of Hague or Whitecloud next.






  1. John W

    Hutton’s growth has been so fun to watch.

    Assuming Hutton and Korczak are a viable 3rd line pairing, the VGK need to seriously look at trading 2 of the following 3: Whitecloud, Hague or Theodore..

    1- Am I crazy to even mention Theodore? His offense and puck moving are very valuable, BUT since his return, he has shown huge lapses with TOs in the Neutral Zone and at the Blue Line, leading to breaks and goals against. (Example – Puck flying over his stick on the power play, leading to a shorty by Tampa)

    2- Given that organizational depth is stronger on defense (even after trading Pachal and Miromanov), a trade for some of the above mentioned could generate Cap Space to sign UFA Forwards, and maybe recover some draft picks.

    Just my two cents……but the addition of Hanafin (assuming he re-signs) and the continued strong play by Hutton sure gives us some options.

    • JB

      I reluctantly agree. I don’t know how many times I have yelled at the tv over Theo,s defensive blunders. He’s so soft and makes stupid mistakes avoiding contact. When does his defensive crap out weigh his offensive value? Maybe NOW!

      • A Fan

        I agree with all of the above about Theodore. He has been a turnover machine for some time now. His negatives outweigh his positives. Turn him into a forward? Trade him this summer while you still may be able to get something for him.

        • Thg

          Pete and RePete is fuming right now !

        • Emmanuel

          Keep Hague, hes a 4/5 NHL D with a reasonable salary. Id trade Theodore ONLY if we could get a top 9 pick at OUR draft this summer. Whitecloud is a bubble NHL’er…..youre getting a 3rd at best for him.

      • Bolts1

        Agree. Just look at last night for example. Immediately after Barbashev scored to put the Vgk ahead 2-1, Theodore skated back in front of his own net, coughed up the puck to Winnipeg, and they passed it into the slot for a high danger chance, and only a good save by LT prevented a tying goal.

        That was just after the faceoff after the Barbashev goal.
        Similar stuff by 27 happens almost every game, and no amount of gaslighting can pretend it doesn’t.

    • NAM

      I agree. I think all the players mentioned should at least be looked at for a trade this summer. I think Cassidy really likes Theo’s offensive skills, he praised him a lot when he was out with injury. I am mixed, I see the good assist total, but he blunders a lot and has really lost his speed after the injury (maybe still lingering). Hanifin definitely could be a replacement. We will see.

      Korczak needs a spot on this team. I think his time in the AHL, beyond this season, is a waste.

  2. I also agree with most of the points stated in the comments section, the puck hops over his stick an inordinate number of times on the PP, which then causes an attempted, and I stress attempted reentry into the attacking zone, I have already advocated for Hanifin to be on the first unit PP.

    I use to think Schmitty shied away from any sort of physical contact, but Shea makes him look like King Kong Bundy.

    And speaking of physical, I liked how Mantha started hitting people last night and getting more involved in that aspect.

  3. Henderson Knights

    Don’t forget, Ken, that Hutton replaced Petro in game 5 vs Edm, after Petro got suspended 1 game, and Hutton played very solid in game 5, a Vgk 4-3 victory at home. They then beat Edm in game 6 in Edm to clinch the series.

    • Remember that game well, VGK were incredibly dominant in that one. Honestly though, these last 7 games have been the best I’ve ever seen him play with VGK. He’s been super steady.

  4. Rob

    I get the feeling that VGK traded for Hanifin because they don’t think they will be able to afford to re-sign Theo when his contract is up. Somebody is going to offer him $8M+ and I just don’t think VGK will have the cap room to do it.

    • Rob – where did you get the idea that some team will offer $8M + for Theo? Now your getting up in the high range as l question what team would spend that kind of money for him. He is a liability in many cases and has no idea what a body check even looks like let alone perform one.

      • Emmanuel

        If he has a big season in his contract year, the salary cap goes up & the D market is thin, he COULD get $8M……lotsa stupid GM’s in the old boys club…….

        • Emmanuel – as I recall he is prone to getting injured and not sure his offensive ability makes up for his defensive short comings. To have a big season you need to stay healthy which seems to avoid him. I think he missed substantial time last season and this year hasn’t been much different.

  5. I’d get rid of petro, vgk always does excellent without him. Just my opinion .

  6. ThG

    hague and whitey are oood d men. don t know what the writer is talking about when he bashes them. best 3rd pair in league.

    only reason hutton is looking good is that marty set the bar so low and is having an off year

  7. JB

    Back in the saddle this afternoon. Need point(s). Just keep racking them up!

  8. JB

    I must say that Mantha is starting to show me things. Hanifin has been good from the start, but wasn’t to sure about Mantha. He’s showing his potential now. Add Hertl in there and look out! I don’t know if Stoney is going to get back, but if he did, we will be very dangerous.

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