While many focusing on how the NHL lockout is affecting NHL players, coaches, administration, and even arena workers, the work stoppage is having a drastic effect on minor league players. Players like the Lightning’s Prospect of the Week, Alex Hutchings of ECHL Florida.
Hutchings is in the final year of his entry-level contract and has yet to secure an AHL spot. His rookie professional season was spent in the ECHL, which is not unheard of by any means. Rookie pros often start in the ECHL, where they can get more ice time than sitting in the press box as a scratch at the AHL level. However, when year two came around, Hutchings failed to make the Norfolk Admirals and a deep roster kept him with the Everblades for a good part of the season. An injury kept him out for three months, too. He earned a spot on the roster by the time the playoffs rolled around, but did not play in the postseason for either the AHL champion Admirals or the ECHL champion Everblades.
This was supposed to be his year.
Thanks to the NHL lockout, Hutchings was pushed back down to the ECHL to make room for NHLers like J.T. Brown, Brett Connolly, and J.T. Wyman. Instead of sulking, the third-year pro is doing what he can to be ready when the Lightning needs him back in the AHL.
This week Hutchings scored in all three of Florida’s games, including a hat trick on Friday against Elmira in which he was named first star. He also had an assist on Wednesday against the Jackals.
For the year, the native of Burlington, Ontario, and offseason workout partner of Cory Conacher has 11 points (5 goals) in 11 games.
A 47-goal scorer with OHL Barrie, Hutchings is making an 11th hour push for another contract year with the Lightning. He was drafted by the previous regime, so he may have that (and time) working against him. Production is the key, and if this week was any indicator, he’s intent on earning that contract.
Hutchings is not ranked among the Lightning’s top-25 prospects by BoltProspects.com.
(Photo courtesy of swamphockey.com)