The fab freshmen of Jetsville

Humble Hutchinson enjoying his charmed start in the bigs

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It was just the other day that Michael Hutchinson's phone buzzed to life with a message, then a couple more, from some of his longtime buddies.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/11/2014 (2873 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It was just the other day that Michael Hutchinson’s phone buzzed to life with a message, then a couple more, from some of his longtime buddies.

The texts all featured the same content: a screen shot of the NHL goaltending leaders in save percentage and goals-against average, grabbed from NHL.com

And there atop the list — as it was Wednesday morning — was Hutchinson.

Trevor Hagan / THE CANADIAN PRESS files Michael Hutchinson

First in average at 1.38. First in save percentage at .948.

“I didn’t realize it until a couple of my friends screen shot it for me and sent it to me,” said Hutchinson with his trademark grin Wednesday. “Obviously I haven’t played as many games as most of the guys on that list, but just to have your name on that list — even if it’s for a short period of time — is something really cool. It’ll be something I look back on down the road.”

One thing you learn quickly in any chat with Hutchinson is there might not be a boastful bone in his body. And most of that humility comes from where he’s been and the road he’s travelled to get here.

Consider this: It was a year ago this week the 24-year-old Barrie, Ont., product was backstopping the Ontario Reign of the ECHL to a 3-1 win over the San Francisco Bulls in front of 2,237 at the Cow Palace. Five days later, he was kicking out 20 shots in a 2-1 win over the Bakersfield Condors in front of 6,816 on home ice.

It was all part of a campaign that saw him play in 76 games in three leagues: 28 in the ECHL, 45 in the AHL with the St. John’s IceCaps — including a run to the Calder Cup final — and three more with the Jets at the end of the regular season.

This from a guy who had been cast adrift by the Boston Bruins after being drafted in the third round in 2008 and hooked up with the Jets through his agent, Mike Liut, who had nothing but praise for Jets assistant GM Craig Heisinger dating back to his days with the Manitoba Moose.

Another of Liut’s clients? Cory Schneider, the man at the other end of the rink as Hutchinson led to the Jets to a 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils Tuesday night.

So from Ontario to St. John’s to Winnipeg and all points in between, from bus rides and commercial flights all the way to the bright lights of the NHL… you can see why Hutchinson is loving every minute of this.

“It’s absolutely crazy,” he said. “It’s a relatively short period of time and when I look back and think about where I was a year ago… it really puts things in perspective. It makes me thankful for the opportunity and the fact I was able to play well and play well up here to help the team win.

“I also know that it’s a competitive business. You know there’s someone coming for your job. I was in that position for the last couple of years where I was trying to make it to this level. Just being able to make it this far, I know how hard I had to work to get here. And I know I have to work that much harder to stay here.”

He vows to take nothing for granted, even if his name is listed — perhaps only temporarily, maybe longer — among the NHL leaders such as Jonathan Quick, Pekka Rinne, Craig Anderson and Corey Crawford.

And here’s the proof: Asked if he still has moments when he wakes up and can’t believe he is here in the NHL now, Hutchinson’s face lights up like a kid racing down the stairs on Christmas morning.

“That’s pretty much every day for me,” he said. “I have to pinch myself and think that I’m playing in the NHL and playing against the best players in the world. It’s absolutely a dream come true.

“Every day I wake up and I’m thankful and I’m happy to come to the rink. I look forward to coming to the rink every single day. And then there are moments like being in Chicago a couple of weeks ago — or playing any single game — and it’s really icing on the cake.”

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

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