After a week of NHL prospect signings that featured activity mostly in the NHL’s Eastern Conference, a pair of Western Conference teams have logged the only signings since the weekend.
The Vancouver Canucks were the more active of the two teams as they inked one current prospect and a free agent to their first NHL deals. The other Western team, the Anaheim Ducks, inked one of their drafted prospects. All three players signed three-year, entry-level deals.
Hutton, Sautner added to Canucks defensive depth
Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning brought one defenseman into the fold, and signed another who is still competing in the WHL.
The Canucks first added to their defensive depth on the weekend when they signed free agent defenseman Ashton Sautner of the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings. The two-way defender was first eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft but was passed over that year, as well as in 2013 and 2014. But the 20-year-old Sautner didn’t let that rejection stop him, landing an NHL contract early in the 2015 free agent signing season.
Sautner was a member of the Memorial Cup-winning Oil Kings squad last season, competing with a group of defensemen that included NHL draftees Griffin Reinhart (NYI), Aaron Irving (NSH), Dysin Mayo (ARZ), plus another defender who signed as a free agent a year ago, Cody Corbett (COL). Although by no means a low profile player, the 6-foot, 192-pound Sautner may have been overshadowed by the sheer amount of talent on the Oil Kings blueline.
Although the Oil Kings are not among the top teams in the WHL this season, Sautner has turned in another season of solid two-way play. The Flaxcombe, SK native currently sits 12th overall in scoring among WHL defensemen with 12 goals and 36 assists for 48 points, the best point total of his WHL career.
In addition to Sautner, the Canucks also signed defensive prospect Ben Hutton from the University of Maine. After a sophomore season in 2013-14 in which he received several honors including a Second Team All-American selection, Hutton and his Black Bears teammates muddled through a down season in 2014-15. He produced 21 points (9G, 12A) in 39 games after producing 29 points in 35 games in 2013-14. Maine tied for ninth in Hockey East with an 8-12-2 conference record.
The 6-foot-3, 201-pound Hutton’s main strengths are his offensive skills and skating. As with any younger player, Hutton’s defensive game could use some work, and his game is not robust despite his good size.
Hutton was ranked 16th by Hockey’s Future in the Fall ranking of their Top 20 prospects, with the Spring ranking due out shortly. The Prescott, ON native is the second NHL draftee from Maine to sign a contract, as Hutton’s teammate Devin Shore signed with the Dallas Stars last week.
Montour becomes a Duck following freshman season
Another NCAA defenseman with offensive inclinations to sign an NHL contract this week is Anaheim Ducks prospect, Brandon Montour. The Oshweken, ON native elected to leave the University of Massachusetts after a truncated freshman season in which he notched 20 points (3G, 17A) in 21 games for the Minutemen.
Montour began the 2014-15 season in the USHL with the Waterloo Black Hawks, the team he competed for in the 2013-14 season. In 17 games for that club, the 6-foot, 185-pound Montour produced six goals and 15 assists for 21 points after producing 62 points and a +35 rating in 60 games in a season where he was named the USHL Defenseman of the Year.
As is the case with Hutton, Montour is able to produce offense from the blueline, primarily with his strong skating and passing skills. Montour is more slightly built than Hutton, however, but neither player could be considered a physical presence.
Hockey’s Future ranked Montour sixth among the Ducks’ Top 20 prospects in the Spring rankings. He is the second UMass player to be signed in the past week, as the Boston Bruins signed forward Frank Vatrano signed four days before Montour.
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