Having already tapped in to one great hockey family with a recent first-round draft pick, the Carolina Hurricanes did the same with the 11th overall choice this year.
On Friday night, the team made Red Deer Rebels center/right wing Brandon Sutter their first choice in 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Sutter, whose father and five uncles all played in the NHL, represents the new generation of players from the famous hockey family. He will be able to relate to his new teammate and 2003 first-round pick Eric Staal, whose similarly-talented family is often referred to as “the new Sutters.”
While Sutter, regarded as one of the smartest and best all-around players in the draft, already possesses the tools that can make him a success at the next level, having such rich bloodlines doesn’t hurt either.
“It’s good,” said Sutter of his hockey heritage. “They’re there for me all the time, they give me lots of support, and I’m proud to be part of the family. They’re a great group and we have a lot of fun and we’re really close.”
While the Hurricanes have been interested in Sutter all along, it wasn’t until this week’s interview session that he really distanced himself from some other players the team was interested in.
“We interviewed nine guys and eight were very good,” said Hurricanes President and General Manager Jim Rutherford. “His was very good. Part of that is the bloodline from his family. Some people come in and sound very prepared, but a lot of his answers came naturally and were actually very funny.”
That sense of humor was also apparent in Sutter’s interview with the media in Raleigh. After the media mistook the distant voice on the phone for Rutherford and started firing away with questions for the Canes GM, Sutter laughed off an otherwise awkward situation.
“Actually, this is Brandon, but I can go get him if you want,” he said.
The Hurricanes expect Sutter to be a versatile two-way player in the years to come. Like the rest of the NHL, the Hurricanes were most impressed with his hockey sense, which likely comes from being brought up by his father Brent, who is a well-respected junior coach.
“He is a very smart player,” said Rutherford. “He’s a very good two-way player. He’s tall, he’ll fill in, and he’ll end up being a big man. He should end up being a very good two-way player.”
Already considered mentally ready to make the jump to the NHL, Sutter, who the Hurricanes expect to be a two-position player at center and right wing, only needs to fill out his 6’3”, 170 lb. frame before playing in the big leagues.
“I think my number one thing [to work on] is my strength and my size,” said Sutter. “Obviously I’m a 6’2”, 6’3” kid, but I know I’ve got to put on some pounds and get bigger and stronger, and I think with time that stuff’s going to come, and if I do that, things will start to come together for me.”
As for next year, Sutter will likely return to Red Deer before joining the Hurricanes in Raleigh.
“He needs to stay in juniors,” said Rutherford. “He’ll go back to Red Deer to continue his development. We’ll bring him to training camp, and if for some reason he’s ahead of the curve and makes the team, that’s fine and we’ll sign him. But we expect him to go back to Red Deer.
Sutter’s preexisting connections to current Hurricanes players don’t end with his family’s comparisons to the Staals. Brent Sutter, who coached his son at Red Deer, also coached Cam Ward during his time with the Rebels and winger Andrew Ladd in the 2005 World Junior Championship.
“I played against Andrew Ladd for one game when I got called up as a youngster,” recalled Sutter. “I grew up watching both of them play. Obviously Cam played in Red Deer, my hometown, and personally I know him. He’s a hell of a goaltender and I’m excited to be a part of the same franchise.”
Sutter will again be coached by his dad when he plays in the Canada-Russia Super Series, beginning on August 27.