Habs Mailbag: Lane Hutson could make his Canadiens debut this season

Habs GM Kent Hughes has already said he’d like to sign defenceman after his NCAA season is over and it makes sense to give him taste of NHL.

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If you have a question you’d like answered in the weekly Habs Mailbag, you can email it to [email protected]

Do you think Lane Hutson will play any games for the Habs this season?

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Paul Martin

I do.

GM Kent Hughes has already said he’d like to sign Hutson after his NCAA season ends with Boston University, where he has 12-27-39 totals in 30 games. Playing in games this season will probably be part of the negotiating process since that would burn off the first year of Hutson’s NHL entry-level contract. The Canadiens did the same thing with Jordan Harris when he signed two seasons ago after leaving Northeastern University and with Sean Farrell when he signed last season after leaving Harvard.

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Having Hutson play some games with the Canadiens this season will also give management a better idea of whether he’s ready to play in the NHL or needs at least one season in the AHL with the Laval Rocket.

In the last 10 years, who was your favourite player off the ice — and why?

@GarsDeChambly on X

That’s a great question and a really tough one to answer — picking out only one player.

I’ve always admired Brendan Gallagher on the ice for his incredible work ethic and willingness to sacrifice his body. He is now paying a price for that physical toll on his body.

Off the ice, I’ve always liked Gallagher for the way he deals with the media, willing to give a little extra time after scrums for one-on-one questions, which really helps when you’re a columnist. He understands what the job of the media is and that it’s also part of his job to speak with us — during good times and bad. He never complains and is always courteous.

When the Canadiens were going through a very rough stretch a few years ago, I thanked Gallagher for granting me an extra 15 minutes after a scrum for some one-on-one questions for a column I was working on. I told him I realized it was a difficult time for him and the team.

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Here was his response:

“I think being a leader, there’s a lot of responsibility. I think part of it is how you relay our message to the fans, and our message to the fans is through you guys (the media) — and that’s really our outlet. So the message that we want to get across comes from us. For fans, this is their outlet to us and they’re going to feel the emotions that we’re feeling as players and we know how frustrating that can be at times. They want to hear that we’re working as hard as we can to get out of it, and if we want them to continue to support us, I think it’s important that they know that.”

Gallagher sets a great example for young players on the team. There are a lot of really good guys in the Canadiens’ locker room now as management looks to create a winning environment during this rebuild. There are no jerks.

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Should the Habs focus on drafting a forward as a need? Or do they grab the best player available, even if it’s a defenceman?

@TheCurfewBoys on X

I understand the thinking behind drafting the best player available — regardless of position — with an early first-round pick. But the Canadiens’ biggest problem is a lack of scoring from their forwards — and it has been a big problem for a long time.

Captain Nick Suzuki has a chance this season to become the first Canadiens player since Alex Kovalev in 2007-08 to reach the 80-point mark. That’s a long time. They haven’t had a 40-goal scorer since Vincent Damphousse in 1993-94, which is an even longer time. They haven’t had a player finish in the top-10 in NHL scoring since Mats Naslund in 1985-86. That’s a very long time.

That’s why at last year’s draft — and I said this after the draft — I would have taken forward Ryan Leonard with the No. 5 overall pick instead of defenceman David Reinbacher. Leonard — who went to the Washington Capitals with the No. 8 pick — has 25-23-48 totals in 33 games this season as a freshman at Boston College. Reinbacher has 1-10-11 totals in 35 games with Kloten HC in the Swiss National League.

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Canadiens GM Kent Hughes and his scouting staff obviously thought Reinbacher was the best player available at No. 5 and time will tell if they made the right choice. The fact Reinbacher is a right-hand shot — and the Canadiens lack depth on that side of the blue line — probably factored into the decision.

If I was Hughes — with plenty of young defencemen already in the system — I’d be focusing on a forward with the first draft pick this year.

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