By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
WILMINGTON Michael Hutchinson is the elder statesman of the Bruins rookies with five years of prospect camp under his goaltending belt, and an entire season of AHL hockey with the Providence Bruins on his resume.
But Hutchinson had his moments during last years season with the P-Bruins and dominated his final Bs prospect camp during July. He gets the much-deserved start in the first rookie game against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Monday night. Bs assistant general manager Jim Benning indicated that Hutchinson would get the nod in the first game, and wanted to continue seeing the consistency hes chased after over the last two years.
Its the typical kind of physical and mental maturation that goes into the often lengthy process of developing a good goaltender, but the 21-year-old Hutchinson still has the ideal 6-foot-3, 192-pound size and excellent athleticism that made him such a good goalie prospect in the first place.
I think with him he was a young goalie that had a good skill set because hes physically big," Benning said. "But with him its finding the consistency to play hard and compete every night in goal. If he lets in a bad goal to bounce back and not let it get to him. So far its just been a couple days at camp. Well see how he plays in his games but I think hes shown an improvement.
"Like last year, he had kind of an up-and-down year. At times he was really good and at other times he struggled but I think for him to keep getting better is if he improves his consistency. So far hes showing that he can keep developing and be a good goalie.
The young Bs goaltender got an opportunity to play in the second game against the Islanders last year at the Garden, so he knows there will be equal parts nervousness and excitement when he takes the ice for warm-ups. Theres a benefit in that he knows what to expect, but donning the Bs sweater in an NHL barn still gets the blood pumping no matter how many times youve done it before.
I remember sitting in the press box for the first game in Boston and I couldnt believe how many people showed up. Then even more people showed up for the second one, said Hutchinson, who went 13-10-1 with a 3.13 goals against average and a .904 save percentage last season in Providence. Its always really memorable when you play in front of that many people for the first time. I remember the overtime and then Ryan Spooners goal to win it. I hadnt been that excited in a while.
Its been a long time and a long offseason because we didnt make the AHL playoffs, so itll be nice to get back into it sooner rather than later. Its exciting. Well all have some adrenaline. Just want to see some shots and get used to playing 60 minutes again.
While the Bruins are obviously set this season with Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask at the NHL level barring any unforeseen injuries, its important for Hutchinson to keep making strides and proving to the Bs brass that he can fill in should either of their goalies go down for any period of time. That starts with Monday nights game against the Isles, and an important training camp for the 21-year-old that many inside and outside the organization will be watching closely.
After all if theres one thing the hockey world always needs, its a few more goalies.