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Grant Hutton’s taste of NHL last year with Islanders fueling him through rookie camp

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Grant Hutton Islanders
Grant Hutton (Photo courtesy of Stefen Rosner/NYIHockeyNow)

New York Islanders defenseman Grant Hutton finally reached the zenith of professional hockey last season.

A COVID outbreak and injury issues that plagued the organization all season gave the then-26-year-old his first opportunity to experience life in the NHL. Those 16 games are what is now fueling him through Islanders rookie camp as the elder statesmen of aspiring skaters looking to make an impression.

“Once you get your first taste of the NHL, you want to stay, you want to do everything in your power to be here full time. That’s my goal,” the 27-year-old, now in his fourth year with the organization after being signed out of college from Miami (Ohio), told amNewYork. “That’s been my dream from a young age. Getting that taste last year provided me with a little bit of confidence in the summer that ‘hey, I can play at this level, I can contribute.’

“It gave me the motivation to work on my game in the offseason and come back to camp with a fresh mind, fresh body, and hopefully fight for a spot.”

There certainly seems to be a vacant spot on the NHL squad that’s up for grabs. The Islanders have five of their six defensive spots locked down — but that last one hasn’t been decided yet. 

Hutton is one of the options, though plenty of eyes are on the young Robin Salo. The 23-year-old Finn and second-round pick from 2017 made his debut last season as well, appearing in 21 games while accruing five points (1G, 4A). 

“I think it’s one of those things where you need to recognize the opportunities that are in front of you. The onus falls on the players,” Hutton said. “You have to know the competition coming into camp, you need to know the spots that you’re fighting for. Just recognizing that and there’s an opportunity to be taken, that’s the most important thing… There’s a lot of competition in camp this year.”

On the line is a chance to play in what is forecasted to be one of the top defenses in the league. 

A unit that ranked 10th in the NHL in goals against last season got better, shedding its older pieces like Andy Greene and Zdeno Chara while bringing on 23-year-old Alexander Radulov — who will most likely be paired with Noah Dobson to create a young, mobile second pairing behind the staunch duo of Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock.

That only leaves the spot next to Scott Mayfield on the third unit open.

“You should be coming into camp with that urgency no matter [if a spot is open or not],” Hutton said. “Everyone’s goal here is to play in the NHL. That’s your dream from a young age. When you come to a camp like this, you need to know that you have a chance. Everyone has a chance. That’s always been [the Islanders’] message is that if you can play, you can play. Everyone shows up with the same chance, you just have to take the opportunity and run with it.”

For more on Grant Hutton and the Islanders, visit AMNY.com