Saskatoon Blades center Lukas Sutter certainly picked a good time to have a career-season with so much attention on him during his draft year.
In addition to being a feisty and agitating player to go up against, Sutter, the son of former Philadelphia Flyers forward Rich Sutter, also proved to be an extremely valuable asset on the score sheet. He connected for career highs in goals (28), assists (31) and points (59). He also tied for second on the team with nine power-play goals and sported an impressive plus-15 rating.
Why all the success in his sophomore campaign with the Blades?
"Last year at the trade deadline, we brought in Brayden Schenn [from the Brandon Wheat Kings] and while my minutes were reduced, I got an opportunity to learn from the best player in junior hockey every day," Sutter said. "The knock throughout my career has always been my skating, and I that's one thing I really tried to focus on and I think it has come a long way."
Schenn was dealt to his hometown Blades for a package of draft picks and prospects at the conclusion of the 2011 World Junior Championship. He played in 27 games with the Blades, scoring 21 goals and adding 32 assists. Despite playing less than half a season in the Western Hockey League, Schenn was named to the league's Eastern Conference Second All-Star Team at the end of the regular season.
Unlike the 2010-11 campaign when he engaged in 17 fights, Sutter only had 10 this season.
"In my first year, I was playing limited minutes, so when you get on the ice, you want to do what you can to make an impression or make the most of that time," he said. "Again, it's a matter of staying in the lineup each and every night. This year, I think the focus for me was trying to play against the other team's best players. Entering the penalty box was something I really tried to tone down."
Sutter did a nice job at the NHL Scouting Combine this week and enjoyed the experience.
"The VO2 Max was a challenge and a long grind but you just have to get through it," Sutter said. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You don't get to spend too much time with the players in the league and especially with the guys you play with all winter once the season is over. It was nice to kind of sit back and enjoy some time with Dalton [Thrower] and Andrey [Makarov] … get to sit back and kind of reminisce about the week that was."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at @mike_morreale