Nick Hutchison vies for college hockey’s highest honor
Nick Hutchison may be a native of Hicksville, but given the amount of hockey he’s played throughout his 24 years, he may as well have been born in Canada.
Currently a senior at Buffalo’s Canisius College, the sports management major is wrapping up his prestigious four-year hockey career at the school, having racked up a number of honors as a member of the Golden Griffins. He’s one of 75-plus nominees for the 2020 Hobey Baker Award, which is given to the NCAA’s top hockey player.
Nominations are submitted by the athletic departments of the Division I men’s hockey schools with a maximum of three candidates from any one school. Fans can vote once a day for their favorite player until midnight of March 9. College hockey fans can also vote online and be an important factor in the balloting outcome. Price Waterhouse Coopers tabulates the votes and the top-10 candidates are announced.
The final phase is the narrowing down to what is known as the Hobey Hat Trick, in which the field is narrowed down to three by a geographically-balanced group of 29 individuals representing print and electronic sports media, college hockey coaches and officials, and NHL scouts. Further fan voting is also a factor.
Among the fellow Long Islanders who’ve recently been in contention for the Hobey Baker Award are current New York Rangers defenseman and Jericho native Adam Fox, who placed in the top three last year while attending Harvard. Ex-Rangers d-liner Matt Gilroy, who hails from North Bellmore, won it in 2009 while attending Boston University and like Hutchison, is an alum of St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset.
And while Hutchison is at the beginning of the journey, the modest forward is quick to credit his teammates and coaches for helping him be in the running.
“It’s obviously the biggest accomplishment you can have in college hockey, which is pretty special. But it’s a lot of hard work and effort. It’s nice to be recognized for it, but it only drives me more,” he said. “Obviously, I’ve had some pretty good teammates and good guys to look up to. Also, the guys I’m playing with now are all part of the reason I can have success and have had success in the past. The coaching staff has been pretty great this year. There was a coaching change during my time at Canisius and I think Trevor Large has had his best year by far.”
As of press time, Hutchison leads the Griffs with 11 goals and is third on the team’s scoring chart with 17 points in just 15 games played in 2019-20. He’s tied for eighth in Atlantic Hockey in scoring with 16 points and sits fifth among all league players with 10 goals versus conference competition. Hutchison also ranks favorably among active Division I players for career goals, as his 53 tallies are fifth most, while his 24 power-play tallies have him second only to Minnesota State’s Marc Michaelis (29) in that category.
It’s all part of a journey that started when Hutchison strapped on a pair of skates when he was around 5 years old.
“I remember the first time—I cried and didn’t want to do it. Then my dad told me to try it and I was doing it,” he said. “I’m playing a little more hockey now than I was. But I’ve loved every second of it so far.”
Having spent his freshman through junior years at St. Mary’s, Hutchison graduated from a high school in Kearney, NE after lacing ‘em up for the Tri-City Storm, a Tier 1 junior ice hockey team that counts St. Louis Blues forward Jaden Schwartz as a former player. But it was during Hutchison’s junior year at St. Mary’s where he experienced a taste of fame as a member of the Long Island Royals. The 16-U junior hockey team coached by ex-NHL players Pat LaFontaine and Steve Webb not only won a national championship in 2009, but were also the subject of a weekly NHL Network reality show called Making a Royal. It wound up being a pretty wild ride for Hutchison.
“It was pretty cool. We were a highly ranked team and it’s something I’ll never forget,” he said. “Being on a Long Island team that won a national championship—I don’t know the exact number of hockey teams that have done it, but that’s definitely something pretty special that I know every guy on that team remembers to this day.”
Before committing to Canisius to join former Royals teammates Jimmy Mazza and Dan LaFontaine, Hutchison headed north to play juniors for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), an experience he really took to.
“I had a great time in Salmon Arm. They eat, sleep and breathe hockey there and I wish I could spend 10 to 15 years playing there. I loved my time up there,” he said.
Having reached the semi-finals twice in the Atlantic Hockey League, Hutchison is taking a leadership role on a squad that boasts 10 freshman. Having overcome a hamstring tear early in the season, he’s recovered and is continuing to improve his play on both ends of the ice despite his noted scoring touch. A student of the game, the lifelong Rangers fan tries to model his game based on Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn.
“He’s a big physical presence and he’s hard to knock off the puck, and he’s great in front of the net and offensively. When push comes to shove, he gets the job done most of the time,” Hutchison explained.
As for his own approach, the Hicksville native tries to keep it straight down the middle.
“Being an older guy and a leader for these 10 freshmen/underclassmen, you never try to get too high or too low. You’re just trying to keep that even middle and try to excel every day,” he said. “I’m ready to make the final push here, trying to get the best seed possible and win our league championship.”
Visit www.hobeybaker.com/vote to see Nick Hutchison’s profile and those of the other nominees.