Alex Hutchings has no problem throwing cold water on his teammates. He also doesn't mind throwing cold water on the hopes of other teams in the Ontario Hockey League.
Hutchings, the Barrie Colts center, has done just that since the start of the 2007-08 season, and did it all through this season as he looks forward to the 2009 Entry Draft.
After leading the team with 29 goals and 54 points last season, Hutchings was even better in 2008-09 -- his 34 goals, 68 points and plus-27 rating all were team-highs. He followed that by tying for the team scoring lead in the playoffs with 7 points in five games.
"He really looks to be the real deal," said Colts coach Marty Williamson. "He wants to be a top-line player so he relishes that responsibility."
Part of that responsibility was being named an assistant captain this season.
Nicknamed Mouth, Hutchings isn't afraid to speak his mind on or off the ice.
"He has no problem walking into my office and expressing his opinions," said Williamson, with just a hint of political correctness. "He's got a very keen personality. He's a jabber. He has a similar personality to me to some extent."
"He's not afraid to speak his mind," added teammate Matt Stanisz. "In the room he's not afraid, if someone does something wrong, to step up and let them know what they did. Away from the ice he's an all-round great guy. Great to live with, fun to be around."
Stanisz would know. He and Hutchings have been teammates since they first started playing competitive hockey in Burlington, Ont., and lived in the same billet house.
He's also been the victim of one of Hutchings' favorite jokes.
"We have cold tubs, and if someone was showering, he would grab the cold-tub hose and hose us down with 15-degree water," said Stanisz.
Despite that unwelcome surprise, having a long-time friend like Stanisz nearby obviously has helped Hutchings. The only season he and Stanisz didn't play together was the 2006-07, when Hutchings debuted in the OHL with 1 goal and 5 points in 30 games with the Colts while Stanisz played an extra season of midget hockey.
Together again last season, Hutchings had his breakout campaign and earned a spot on NHL Central Scouting's Future Watch list. Heading into the 2009 Entry Draft, Hutchings is No. 44 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters.
Possessing great speed and a big-time shot, Hutchings' biggest asset is his willingness to go into the corner. He's listed at 5-foot-10 and 176 pounds, but don't let his size fool you -- he'll go wherever the puck is, no matter how ugly the place.
"The thing I would hate to be called is a soft forward," said Hutchings. "That's something I despise being called. I like to get into the exciting stuff. I like being known as a guy who plays both ends of the ice, go into the corner and take the hit.
"I'm always willing to battle in the corners. I'll do some things other guys wouldn't do, like take a hit from a 6-4 defenseman and try to get the puck again."
That determination certainly has been noticed.
"He's a phenomenal skater," said goaltender Peter Di Salvo, who faced Hutchings every day in practice. "He drives to the net. He's everything a coach could want in a scorer."