Joshua
Serafini
June 22, 2024

Cole Hutson is a dynamic wildcard in the 2024 NHL Draft

Dynamic skill drives modern hockey, and 2024 NHL Draft-eligible defenseman Cole Hutson offers it in spades.

It’s also why Hutson has gone from a mid-round pick to a potential first-rounder later this month.

Hutson, the younger brother of Montreal Canadiens defense prospect Lane Hutson, brings many of the same skills his brother does to the table. Just like Lane, however, Cole has the same drawbacks in defense and in terms of size and strength.

It’s these drawbacks that make Hutson one of the draft’s biggest wildcards, and potentially one of its biggest steals as well. Very rarely does a player with Hutson’s dynamic ability stick around until the late first round, or even the second round. There are bound to be a few teams looking to take a stab at one of the draft’s most skilled defensemen at the end of the first round given how high Hutson’s ceiling is.

WHO IS COLE HUTSON?

Hutson is quite undersized for a defenseman, standing at 5-foot-10 and a light 165 pounds. There’s obviously still plenty of room to grow and some size to his frame, but his size is sure to scare some teams off. As a June 2006 birthday, he’s also one of the younger defensemen available in the draft.

Hutson was slotted in at No. 41 in FCHockey’s Final ranking for the 2024 draft. However, if a team is willing to bet on his talent, he could easily find himself earning that stage call with a team going off the board in the first round.

COLE HUTSON’S ON-ICE PRODUCTION

Hutson has produced pretty much everywhere he goes. During his D-2 season, Hutson played for a U16 AAA team at the age of 14, putting up a ridiculous 62 points (20 goals, 42 assists) in just 24 games to lead his team in scoring by 13 points.

Following his D-2 season, Hutson made the jump to the NTDP, playing for both the U17 and U18 teams in 2022-23. During his time with the U17 team, Hutson led the team in scoring from the backend with 42 points (eight goals, 34 assists) in 42 games. His point-per-game rate was third on the entire roster behind only 2024 draft-eligible forward Cole Eiserman and 2025 phenom James Hagens.

SEASON DRAFT REL. TEAM LEAGUE GP G A P
2021-22 D-2 North Jersey Avalanche U16 AAA 24 20 42 62
2022-23 D-1 U.S National U17 NTDP 42 8 34 42
U.S National U18 NTDP 19 2 24 26
USNTDP Juniors USHL 32 4 21 25
2023-24 D+0 U.S National U18 NTDP 51 15 36 51
USNTDP Juniors USHL 19 3 9 12

That same season he produced 26 points (seven goals, 19 assists) in just 19 games for the U18 team. In total, his 68 points during the 2022-23 season for the NTDP is the highest single-season total by a defenseman in the program’s history. For good measure, he also led the USNTDP Juniors in scoring from the blue line in the USHL that year as well.

This season, Hutson continued to dominate at the NTDP, putting up 51 points in 51 games for the U18 team, once again leading the blue line. He finished his NTDP career as the most productive defenseman in program history, totaling 119 points over his two seasons.

Unsurprisingly, Hutson has also dominated at the international level. In 2022-23 he posted nine points in seven games in a gold medal effort at the World Under 17 Hockey Challenge and 12 points in seven games at the World Under-18 Championships, once again winning gold. This season he once again paced the American blue line at the U18’s with 13 points in seven games as he was named the top defenseman at the tournament.

COLE HUTSON’S STRENGTHS

The biggest strength in Hutson’s game is without question his elite highlight reel skill.

“Hutson is a dynamic offensive-leaning defender,” FCHockey regional scout Kyle Pereira said.

He’s a wizard with the puck and a treat to watch in the offensive zone. It looks like he has the puck on a string at times as he maneuvers his way in and out of traffic to create scoring chances and extend plays that many other defenders his age wouldn’t be able to. There aren’t many defenders in the entire 2024 draft class that can manage the puck better than Hutson can.

Another impressive aspect of his game is his skating. He’s arguably a better skater than his brother Lane, offering another tool in his impressive offensive toolkit. He’s incredibly shifty and can turn on a dime, making him hard to contain in all three zones. It’s not just his agility that is impressive though, as he also carries some solid speed and acceleration heading up the ice.

Lastly, he’s just a flat-out smart player. He’s able to think the game with the best defenders in the draft and possesses the offensive awareness that will always be valuable in the NHL. He’s able to recognize open lanes either to carry the puck himself or to thread a pass to a teammate, creating scoring chances at will when he wants to.

“He has an incredible ability to attack open space off the blue line in the offensive zone to pose as a threat to score,” Pereira said. “That’s easily his best trait and what allowed him to score at the rate he did with the NTDP.”

Whether it’s on the power play or at even strength, Hutson is great at reading the play and finding areas of weakness in the defense. Defenders need to constantly be on their toes when Hutson has possession as he’s constantly looking for even the smallest gaps in the defense to exploit.

Hutson possesses all the skills of your modern offensive defenseman. He can skate, shoot, and pass and offers impressive creativity and hockey IQ for a defenseman. It’s these tools that make Hutson a must-watch player when he’s on the ice.

COLE HUTSON’S AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT

Just like his strengths, Hutson’s areas for improvement are quite clear when you watch him play. As a classic offensive defenseman, he can at times give up at one end just as much as he creates at the other end. It’s the primary reason he’s likely to be avoided by some teams who aren’t willing to take the risk on a player like Hutson.

“He does give up quite a bit the other way, so he’s definitely a risk-taker,” Pereira said.

Hutson is prone to careless mistakes in his own zone, leading to turnovers and chances against. Whether it’s not giving 100% in puck battles or sending lazy passes up the ice, Hutson leaves a lot to be desired in his own zone sometimes.

Just like many offensive-minded players his age, he can tend to cheat for offense at times, leaving the zone or heading up the ice before his team has possession. This can get him in trouble as he’s caught out of position and has to hustle to get back into the play. At the NHL level, he’ll very likely need to play alongside a responsible and defensive partner to ensure he has the freedom to utilize his skill set.

“He will need to be deployed correctly at a higher level,” Pereira said.

The bottom line is Hutson has plenty of room for improvement in his own zone and it should be his primary focus over the next couple of years. That’s not to say he has to become a shutdown defenseman one day, but he’ll need to clean up his play in his own zone if he hopes to earn a shot in the NHL down the line.

COLE HUTSON’S OUTLOOK

Hutson is one of the draft’s most intriguing options to close out the first round. It’s not often you find a player with the offensive upside and talent of Hutson available into the late 20’s of the draft. He presents a gigantic opportunity for any team willing to take a swing on his dynamic talent.

Hutson will make his NCAA debut next season at Boston College which should offer some insight into his future in the NHL as he lines up against much stronger and older opponents. There’s no reason to believe he can’t continue to dominate offensively at the NCAA level, he’s just that good. He will likely never be an all-situations defender and will need to land in the proper role to be a successful NHL player one day, but if he does, look out.


More Stories

June 30, 2024

Scout Survey: The biggest hits and misses from the 2024 NHL Draft

June 29, 2024

Here are the top steals on the second day of the 2024 NHL Draft

June 29, 2024

Here are the top prospects not selected at the 2024 NHL Draft

Get insider content and scouting reports you can’t find anywhere else.

Sign up now