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First-Round Familiarity

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes

Besides being first-round draft picks of the Hurricanes in consecutive years, Zach Boychuk and Brandon Sutter have some other things in common.

Both grew up playing hockey in western Canada, where they first met around the age of 10 in the finals of the Alberta provincial championship.  Not surprisingly, both were among the most talented players in their age group growing up, which led to many such meetings.

”We were kind of both go-to players on our teams, so we were always against each other,” said Sutter.

Their paths finally aligned when they began to represent Canada at the national level, where they played together about five times before Boychuk joined Sutter in the Hurricanes system at last month’s NHL draft.

The two, who had become good friends over the years, realized they had a chance to stay together with the Hurricanes drafting right around where Boychuk was ranked with the 14th overall choice.

”I think we kind of hoped for it,” said Sutter.  “I was hoping someone that I knew would be coming here, and it couldn’t have worked out any better.  He’s such a good kid and we’re pretty good buds, so I was really happy.”

They find themselves together again at the Hurricanes’ Prospect Camp in Raleigh this week, where they’re learning the proper conditioning habits that will help them make it as professionals.

Even though Sutter is a year older than Boychuk, a junior tournament with Team Canada prevented him from attending last year’s prospect camp with the rest of his draft class.  He did make it past several cuts in the Hurricanes main training camp that fall, giving him valuable experience that he’s been sharing with Boychuk all week.

”He’s been teaching me a lot of stuff about the organization and it’s been good having a friend to talk to,” said Boychuk.  “He’s my roommate right now, so it’s been good hearing from him about what the coaching staff and the trainers are all about.”

While both took comfort with the knowledge that they had at least one friend going into the camp, they’ve gelled quickly with the other 10 prospects in attendance, as can be clearly seen in the way they’ve been interacting with each other on and off the ice.

”[The camp] is tough, but it’s nice to joke around,” said Sutter.  “We try to keep it pretty light.  When we’re on the ice it’s pretty intense, but we’re all good friends and good kids, so we’re trying to enjoy ourselves.”

While most of the prospects will return to their junior teams, college teams or the Hurricanes’ AHL affiliate in Albany next season, Sutter is hoping to stick around in Raleigh a little longer.  Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford recently said that Sutter would be given a great opportunity to earn the Canes’ open spot at center – an opportunity he hopes to take advantage of this fall.

”I think coming in, obviously I want to play here this year, so if that’s the case it would be great,” said Sutter.  “It’s a good spot to develop as a player and it’s such a good organization.  I wouldn’t really want to be anywhere else.”

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