Sutter crosses border and joins Team Canada
By Daniel Nugent-Bowman, The StarPhoenix
June 16, 2012
Lukas Sutter of the Saskatoon Blades is trading in some stars and stripes for a red Maple Leaf.
Sutter - a St. Louis-born centre, who grew up in Lethbridge, Alta. - was officially named to Canada's roster for the Canada-Russia Challenge on Friday.
Sutter was one of 28 players selected to the team for the fourgame, under-20 series in August. The first two games will be played in Yaroslavl, Russia followed by a pair of contests in Halifax, signifying the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Summit Series.
The event marks the first time Sutter has played for Canada after suiting up for the United States at the 2009 under-17 Five Nations and 2010 under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournaments.
However, because neither of those competitions was sanctioned by the International Ice Hockey Federation and since Sutter didn't play the requisite two years of minor hockey south of the border, it would have been more of an ordeal to represent the United States in the future.
"I'd had conversations with Hockey USA and Hockey Canada throughout this past winter," said Sutter, who moved to Lethbridge from Chicago when he was two after his father, Rich, retired from the NHL.
"It would come down to an appeal process to play for USA Hockey. Had they lost the appeal, I wouldn't have been able to play (in the world junior championship). You can't really pass up an opportunity to play for your country."
While the Canada-Russia Challenge will feature Sutter wearing a different sweater in international play, his family is well accustomed to representing the red and white in junior tournaments.
Sutter's uncle, Brent, coached Canada to back-to-back world junior gold medals in 2005 and 2006. He led Canada to a 7-0-1 record against Russia in the 2007 Super Series.
Sutter's cousin, Brandon - Brent's son, who now plays for the Carolina Hurricanes - was a member of that Super Series team and then captured a gold medal at the 2008 world junior championship.
This year's Challenge serves as the summer development camp for the 2013 world junior tourney in Ufa, Russia.
"Playing for Canada and playing for the States is a whole different level in terms of the expectations," Sutter said. "With the team that they're taking over there, they obviously want to win.
"At the same time, you're trying to leave an impression for the winter and make a strong push to play for the world junior team."
In addition to the Challenge, Hockey Canada head scout Kevin Prendergast will use the first few months of the upcoming season and the CHL Subway Super Series to monitor the 28 players selected as well as identify other candidates for the 2013 world junior selection camp in December.
That leaves the door open for Blades defencemen Duncan Siemens, who took part in the 2011 summer development camp, and Dalton Thrower, a potential firstround pick in the NHL draft next week, to earn an invite.
Sutter had 28 goals and 59 points for Saskatoon last season after earning just four goals and 19 points in 2010-11.
On top of the increased offensive production, Sutter was tasked with shutting down the oppositions' best lines.
Those two-way skills are something that could make him a valuable cog for Canada, which hasn't won a world junior gold since 2009.
"You look back when Brent was coaching those teams and he had guys that were very responsible and wanted to play that game the length of the ice," said Rich Sutter, who has been a WHL assistant coach and an NHL scout. "There's a role there to be filled and I think that was missing on a couple of the last world junior teams."
And Lukas Sutter believes he's ready to bring his style of game to the bigger stage.
"I'm obviously a gritty two-way guy," he said.
"I think that every team needs a player like me. That's something that I take pride in and that's a role that I'd be more than honoured to fill."
BLADE BITS: Sutter wasn't the only member of the Blades named to Team Canada. Blades team doctor Cole Beavis, of Saskatoon, will fill the same role for Canada.
dnugent-bowman@ thestarphoenix.com Twitter.com/DNBsports
© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix