This year’s Hobey Baker Award winner, defenceman Will Butcher of the University of Denver Pioneers has opted not to sign with the Colorado Avalanche at this time. He will test unrestricted free agency on August 15th. Given his age, Butcher can only sign a two-year entry level contract with his new club. Expect there to be numerous offers for this undersized, but offensively talented defenceman.
“We informed the Avalanche of that decision,” Butcher’s agent, Brian Bartlett, told BSN Denver. “We appreciate what Colorado has done, and we’re not ruling out the Avalanche as a potential destination. But we just feel there will be other opportunities that should be explored too, and therefore we’re going (to the 15th).”
So who is Butcher, and what could NHL teams be bidding on?
Will Butcher, College Free Agent
Defense — shoots Left
Born January 6th, 1995 — Sun Prairie, WI
Height 5’10” — Weight 200 lbs [178 cm / 91 kg]
Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the 5th round, #123 overall at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
Will Butcher finished up his University of Denver with a magical season that culminated in an NCAA National Championship and Hobey Baker Award. He exploded offensively, with seven goals and 37 points in 43 games.
Butcher is quick skater. He has excellent speed in both directions. He also has very good acceleration. Butcher has very good agility and edge work. This allows him to cover a lot of ice. It also makes him tough to beat one-on-one. Butcher will need to add more core strength and improve his balance. This will help him to win battles in the corners and in front of the net.
Butcher has very good vision and the ability to thread the needle on passes both to start the transition game and in setting up plays in the offensive zone. He also has a good shot, and understands how to get it through to the net and keep it low to create opportunities for tip-ins and rebounds for his teammates. He has good agility and walks the line well to open up passing and shooting lanes in the offensive zone. Butcher also shows poise with the puck and can stick handle away from a forechecker, or to create space in the offensive zone.
While Butcher is a little undersized, and can be overpowered in the defensive zone, he works hard to avoid this making him a defensive liability. He has good positioning and a quick stick to try and avoid these situations. He also transitions the puck out of the defensive zone quickly, avoiding getting pinned in there for long periods of time. Butcher has strong positioning and effectively cuts down passing lanes.
Expect Butcher to be NHL ready and push for a spot with whatever team signs him. He may need to take on some sheltered third-pairing minutes at first, while he gets stronger and adjusts to NHL speed, but he can grow into a much bigger role. Butcher has all the potential to grow into a top-four defenceman at the NHL level.
CHICAGO, IL – APRIL 7: Will Butcher #4 of the Denver Pioneers wins the 2017 Hobey Baker Memorial Award ceremony at the Aon Grand Ballroom on April 7, 2017 in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)