NEWARK, N.J. – It was two summers ago, and Michael Hutchinson’s career had come to a crossroads.
Taken by the Boston Bruins with the 77th overall pick in 2008, the Original Six franchise did not extend the goaltender a qualifying offer after three seasons with the organization in which he shuttled between their American Hockey League affiliate in Providence and the ECHL’s Reading Royals before spending all of his 2012-13 campaign with the P-Bruins.
Despite a 2.30 goals against average and .914 save percentage in 30 appearances that year, he simply wasn’t in Boston’s plans going forward. The Winnipeg Jets were quick to offer a contract, but he knew he was likely ticketed for a return trip to the ECHL.
“There’s times like when Boston didn’t qualify me that you start to question things a little bit,” said Hutchinson, who earned his way out of the league for good with 22 wins in 28 games played for the Ontario Reign.
“That was a tough summer going in, knowing that I was going to start in the (ECHL) and kind of take that step back. That was frustrating, but I had the summer to digest that information, come to grips with it and kind of get the right perspective going in. The only way you get out of the (ECHL) is to prove that you shouldn’t be there. That’s what I went in thinking every single day in practice and in games, trying to help my team win every single chance and just be better than I was the day before.”
Not only did the now 25-year-old native of Barrie, Ontario, Canada re-establish himself back in the AHL with the St. John’s IceCaps later that season, he also made his long-awaited National Hockey debut late in the season with the Jets; Hutchinson won two of his three starts and posted a 1.64 GAA and stellar .943 save percentage. It was that stretch that helped earn him the backup job to Ondrej Pavelec last year, but he also saw extended time as the team’s starter. He spent the entire season in the NHL, appearing in 38 games while continuing to produce solid numbers. Heading into this season, the personable netminder has truly established himself at the game’s highest level, and no longer has to worry about heading back down the ladder.
“It’s nice,” he told ECHL.com through a big smile.
“I know coming into this year that I can play at this level and I can play consistently at this level. For myself, coming into this season, I have that extra confidence. Before, I was just kind of a little bit nervous, especially with the first game coming in even though I’d played a little before. You never know how you’re going to do in the long run, so I’m still trying to take it day-by-day and not get too comfortable. It’s easy to do that, and you’ll shoot yourself in the foot. But I do feel a lot more comfortable this year.”
Better yet, he’s also been able to find some time to wrap his head around the incredible journey that took him to the NHL.
“It was kind of cool a couple summers ago and even last summer, you just look back,” he said.
“I still keep in touch with guys I played with on those teams, and it’s fun to talk to them. It makes you realize how far you came. It just goes to show sometimes it’s just getting an opportunity and being in the right place at the right time. My journey was a little bit different than most guys to get here and it took a little bit longer, but I made it here and hopefully other people can look up to that.”