There are few names out there as synonymous with hockey as the last name “Sutter.” The Viking, Alberta clan of seven brothers saw six play in the NHL in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Each of the six then went on to work in the NHL with four of them being a head coach in the NHL at some point. The next generation of Sutters has found their way into the NHL as well with Brett, Brandon and Brody each finding some time at the game’s top level. Everett Silvertips center Riley Sutter is hoping to be the next Sutter to make the leap.
Riley is the son of Ron Sutter, who played 1,093 games in the NHL and put up 533 points over 20 seasons.With all of that love of hockey in the family, iot should not be surprising that he got started on the ice at a very young age.
“I’ve always been a hockey player as far back as I can remember. I think I learned to skate before I could even walk There’s a lot of hockey players in my family with my Dad and all my uncles. I really looked up to them growing up and they really showed me the path and are my role models” Sutter said.
While his Dad and uncles had switched to scouting or coaching by the time he was a toddler, he still had a couple Sutters to follow closely as they went through the WHL ranks and onto professional hockey. Current Vancouver Canucks center Brandon Sutter was one.
“(Brandon) was someone I really watched a lot growing up when he was playing in Red Deer and even Brent playing in Kootenay and Red Deer as well. Those are two guys I looked up to as well and they are still playing at high levels. I try to model my game after them.”
The style that he plays is clear when he says that his favorite NHL player to watch is four-time Selke award winner and Boston Bruin Patrice Bergeron. “I try to model my game after him, he’s a good two-way center and a good leader. I try to be more like him every year. Now that I am getting older here, I try to model myself after him a bit as a leader.”
That two-way style he plays received the perfect coach when he came to Everett in 2015 and got play under, now former, Everett Head Coach Kevin Constantine. “Coming into it-going from Midget hockey to junior is a big jump and Kevin really taught me a lot of things. Playing in the d-zone and he gave me the opportunity to play on the power play. I worked a lot on how to position myself and use my body. I learned a lot from Kevin.”
Constantine was replaced this last summer by new Head Coach Dennis Williams and a completely different style built on attacking rather than defending. The possibility for Sutter’s point total to improve dramatically from the 39 he put up in 2016-17 is not something the 6-foot-3 center focuses on too much.
“I don’t try to think about it too much. Honestly, I hear the talk but I try to focus on the task at hand and the next day-the next day at practice or the next game.”
That philosophy burns deep in Sutter and his goals this year are rooted in this desire to take care of all the small details.
“My goal is just to come to the rink and try to accomplish something every day, If that’s trying to do something hard in practice or speaking up in a meeting. Just doing something good every day. That will be something that will really help with our younger guys and try to help them develop.”
Those things are far more important to him than what his point total reads at the end of the season. “I don’t try to think about stats too much. It’s just more of an opportunity to have a fresh start with a lot of younger guys. It’s going to be a good year. We have a lot of potential and a lot of skill from our younger guys up through our 20-year-olds.”
To help fulfill his team’s potential, Sutter worked on improving his skating this summer. Considering, the new system requires speed on the attack, this seems like the right thing for him to focus on.
“I really tried to work on being more explosive and getting better in my d-zone Getting out of my turns and getting more explosive in my strides.”
If Sutter can show the flexibility to excel in this new style as much as he did in the more defensive one, we could end up seeing yet another Sutter putting on an NHL sweater this June in Dallas. If this constant stream of Sutters to the game’s top level keeps up, the Sutter genes need to be studied so that scientists can determine whether there is a hockey gene hidden somewhere in there.