Sutter draws on relatives as draft nears
Blades centre would be 11th Sutter taken
By Daniel Nugent-Bowman, The StarPhoenix
June 20, 2012
Saskatoon Blades centre Lukas Sutter, shown here in WHL action against the Regina Pats in December 2011, is expected to be selected in the NHL draft which begins Friday night in Pittsburgh. The Blades' star will become the 11th Sutter drafted by an NHL club. His father, Rich, played in 874 NHL games.
Photograph by: Gord Waldner, The StarPhoenix , The StarPhoenix
Saskatoon Blades centre Lukas Sutter never had to look far if he needed any advice when he was growing up.
Whenever Sutter required some guidance on or off the ice, he often turned to his father, Rich - a veteran of 874 NHL games - who doubled as his minor hockey coach in Lethbridge.
If he didn't like the message Rich was preaching, Sutter would turn elsewhere - usually in the direction of his uncle, Ron.
Not that the recommendations were much different.
"It didn't really matter," Sutter said. "I got the same answer from both of them.
"You really do take into realization that they both know what it takes to be a pro. It doesn't really matter who you talk to, whether it's a dad or an uncle - We're all raised on the same set of beliefs and values."
The St. Louis-born, Lethbridge-trained player is expected to be selected on Day 2 of the NHL draft on Saturday, anywhere between the second and fourth round.
When he is picked, the third-year Blade will become the 11th Sutter drafted by an NHL club.
It's clear the self-described "prototypical Sutter" has used the lessons imparted on him by all members of his family to get to where he is today. He points to another uncle, Darryl, head coach of the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, as his recent source of inspiration.
"He was able to expect more of himself and more out of his players every single day," Sutter said. "I think that really is what it means to be a Sutter. You can never be good enough."
It was in the 2011-12 WHL season where Sutter started showing how good he could be.
Selected 42nd in the 2008 bantam draft, Sutter's junior career started on a sour note when, as a 15-year-old, he tore the labrum in his right shoulder in training camp and missed all but seven games.
With the Blades vying for and ultimately winning the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as WHL regular season champions in his sophomore campaign in 2010-11, Sutter saw limited ice time and managed to tally 19 points in 71 games.
But playing mostly with overage wingers Jesse Paradis and Michael Burns last year, Sutter was charged with matching up against the opposition's best lines on a nightly basis.
He was named the team's best defensive forward in 2012 while showing some offensive flair. Sutter was third on the Blades in goals (28) and points (59), as well as plus-minus (+15).
"He was, without question, the most improved player from the year before," Blades head coach and general manager Lorne Molleken said. "He took on an expanded role this year and played on both the power play and penalty kill. But the one thing he cherished and worked extremely hard at and took a lot of pride in was playing against the other teams' best players. He did a tremendous job."
While the pesky Sutter plays the game hard in all three zones - much the way his relatives did - the knock against him has been his skating.
Rich Sutter said his son is aware his stride needs some improving. However, he said, those who call it a weakness are mistaken.
"What a lot of people don't understand is that he does play against the teams' better forwards every night. In order to do that, his skating must be OK," Rich said while comparing his son's skating to that of his nephew, Brandon, of the Carolina Hurricanes.
"I kind of laugh when I hear people say his skating is his downfall. Well, he wouldn't be able to keep up with all those guys if it was."
Mark Seidel - chief scout of North American Centre Scouting - agreed, noting that Lukas's on-ice intelligence helps make up for any lack of foot speed.
"You can't play the role he played without being (able) to skate," Seidel said. "Skating is one of those things where you have to be a phenomenal skater if you have no hockey sense, because you've got to be able to skate 200 feet.
"A guy like Lukas Sutter understands the game and has that intangible. He maybe only has to skate 145 feet because he understands what's going to happen or where he needs to be."
Seidel has Lukas ranked 62nd overall heading into the draft - early in the third round - but could see him being selected higher. Lukas is currently ranked 39th by NHL Central Scouting.
While Seidel believes the 6-foot-1, 202-pound forward may not have the same pure skill that others have, he noted Lukas has the desire to compensate.
"You put him on a rink with a lot of guys that are going to be second-round picks and I don't think he fares very well," Seidel said. "You put him in a game, and coaches love these kind of guys. They're winners.
"He goes to the hard areas all the time and he isn't afraid of anything."
Lukas has led the Blades in penalty minutes in each of the last two seasons, dropping the gloves 27 times according to hockeyfights.com.
"He's a guy that cares very much for his teammates," Rich Sutter said. "As his game evolves offensively and defensively, that part of his game he will tone down.
"He's created some room for himself and now he can go focus on doing other things on the ice that are going to make him a better player."
Last Friday, Lukas's hard work landed him a spot on Canada's roster for the Canada-Russia Challenge - a four-game series that takes place in August.
This year's draft is in Pittsburgh, where he'll be joined by his dad, as well as his mom, Rhonda, and sisters, Sabra and Kendra.
Rich Sutter notes that they're his son's biggest supporters. But, for Lukas, they're also the one's who have laid the groundwork for his success.
"You're raised with that competitive nature," Lukas said. "You push yourself to be better than the person next to you, whether you're in the gym or whether you're on the ice. It doesn't really matter what facet you're in.
"There should never be a plateau. There should always be more that you can get from yourself."
WHERE LUKAS SUTTER'S RELATIVES WERE SELECTED AT THE NHL DRAFT:
Ron (uncle) - fourth, Philadelphia Flyers, 1982
Rich (father) - 10th, Pittsburgh Penguins, 1982
Brandon (cousin, Brent's son) - 11th, Carolina Hurricanes, 2007
Duane (uncle) - 17th, New York Islanders, 1979
Brent (uncle) - 17th, New York Islanders, 1980
Brian (uncle) - 20th, St. Louis Blues, 1976
Shaun (cousin, Brian's son) - 102nd, Calgary Flames, 1998
Darryl (uncle) - 179th, Chicago Blackhawks, 1978
Brett (cousin, Darryl's son) - 179th, Calgary Flames, 2005
Brody (cousin, Duane's son) - 193rd, Carolina Hurricanes, 2011
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