How many NHL games Grant Hutton plays in the future is yet to be determined. It’s quite possible the undrafted free-agent defenseman will come to Islanders training camp in September vying for a roster spot. Or, at age 26, the 6-4, 207-pound righthander could find himself in an organizational depth role.
The native of Carmel, Indiana, has spent almost three seasons with the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport after four seasons at Miami (Ohio).
It’s no sure thing he’ll be in the Islanders’ lineup for Tuesday’s game against the Penguins at UBS Arena, the start of a home-and-home series. But Hutton, on an emergency recall, has played in the last eight games and scored his first NHL goal — a blue-line shot through traffic that left Blues goalie Jordan Binnington staring at the ceiling in disbelief — in Saturday night’s 6-1 loss in St. Louis to conclude a five-game road trip.
“It was exciting,” said Hutton, who also notched his first NHL point on the goal to cut the Blues’ lead to 5-1 at 18:41 of the second period. “It’s unfortunate where the score was at that point of the game. It was kind of a lucky goal, just throw it on net. I think Leesy [Anders Lee] was in front. It must have gone off their defenseman’s stick. It’s always nice coming back into the room and guys saying congrats.”
Hutton took three shots in 15:53, the most ice time he’s seen in five games.
He has been paired with Andy Greene, 39, who’s quite possibly in the final weeks of a career in which he has played 1,046 NHL games after the Devils signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Miami (Ohio) in 2006.
Hutton has played his first 13 NHL games for the Islanders this season, starting with a five-game stint from Nov. 20 — he can always say he played in the first game at UBS Arena — through Dec. 2 as the team’s lineup was depleted by a COVID-19 outbreak.
“I think what you see with any player is every time you come up, you start to feel a little more comfortable,” coach Barry Trotz said. “That allows you to have some success in the league. I think he’s getting to that point where he’s feeling a little bit more at ease and his game shows it a little bit more.”
That’s not to say Hutton is getting flashier.
Quite the opposite for the stay-at-home defenseman.
“For me, it’s just been keeping it simple,” he said. “My job is to take care of our end, move the puck and play inside of our structure. You’re not going to see anything flashy or fancy from me.”
Notes & quotes: Left wing Andy Andreoff was reassigned to Bridgeport with Casey Cizikas having served his one-game suspension.