"He brings a pedigree of working for everything he has achieved."
Those words fit the description of Carter Hutton, a player who was undrafted and now, at age 32, has a chance to be a No. 1 netminder in the NHL after agreeing to a three-year contract with the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.
Andrew Allen delivered those words, and Buffalo's goaltending coach knew Hutton long before this day would ever become a reality.
"I first met Carter in Chicago, my first year as Developmental Goaltending Coach for the Blackhawks. I got a chance to work with him in the American League [in 2011-12], his second year coming out of university [at UMass-Lowell]," Allen said. "Carter makes a great first impression on and off the ice. He is a competitive guy that really battles on the ice and I could see early on that his teammates really respected him for the work ethic and character he brought to our team."
Hutton was third in the nation with a .928 save percentage as a senior. He would then sign with San Jose, leading to him playing 22 games with Worcester in 2010-11.
Allen picks up the story from there.
"He started on an AHL/ECHL two-way contract in Chicago's system and quickly proved he belonged in the AHL at that time through his preparation and dedication to the team," he said. "Chicago signed him to an NHL contract to be the starter in Rockford the next season and he has not looked back.
"His best physical attributes are his lateral speed and his puck-handling ability. We worked a lot on keeping his ability to move and scramble but play with less depth and more under control setting up for the initial shot to help him be more consistent and balanced.
"He strived to be a starter and with more minutes he needed more consistency. Using his athleticism and reflex speed to get to position quicker, he was able to not have to scramble as often, but kept the ability to do so when needed."
Allen joked, "I take no credit for his puck-handling ability. He sees the ice well and has the ability to help our D-men start the break out. In Rockford, we built our retrievals around his skill set."
Hutton's best season was last year with St. Louis, where he went 17-7-3 with a 2.09 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. Not surprisingly to Allen.
"Watching him play the last few years, I see his continued progression of being under control and well-positioned," Allen said. "The biggest difference I see now is his confidence level in the NHL. He has earned his minutes year after year, showing his coaches they can play him in all situations against any team."
Playing for the Sabres will mark the first time Hutton has been based in the East. His career record against Eastern Conference opponents is 35-12-3, with a 2.15 GAA and .919 SV%.
San Jose, Chicago, Nashville and St. Louis. Those were Hutton's stops on his journey to this point. Why will Buffalo be a good fit at this point in time?
"Carter is a great fit for our young Sabres team," Allen said. "Our team is in an exciting building stage and Carter will bring character, experience and the ability to win games to our group, all the while competing to continue to earn his starts both in practice and through game results.
"Carter will be an ideal partner for Linus Ullmark - to communicate with, learn from and create healthy competition. Playing with Pekka Rinne for multiple years taught him a lot about how to be successful in the NHL and he will pass this on to Ullmark through the way he goes about his business every day."