This year’s training camp is a little different for Brandon Sutter
All but guaranteed a roster spot at the start of 2008-09
, the Hurricanes’ improved depth at the center position has given the talented 20-year-old a few more obstacles to overcome in his second professional season.
Of those, most notable is the recent signing of veteran Stephane Yelle, who is expected to fill the fourth-line and penalty killing role that Sutter claimed out of junior hockey one year ago. It wasn’t exactly the move Sutter wanted to see made, but he’ll continue to let his play do the talking.
“Obviously it’s tough for us guys that are trying to get into the lineup when they bring other guys in, but you don’t worry about it,” said Sutter after Monday’s Group B practice. “They’re going to do what they’re going to do and you’ve just got to prove them wrong.”
Unless he has an outstanding preseason, Sutter could be ticketed to start this year in Albany of the AHL, where he would be part of a promising young team featuring a handful of the Hurricanes’ best prospects. While he would play considerably more in that setup than in Carolina, that’s still not something Sutter is prepared to settle for at this point.
“There’s a lot of good young players here, but at the same time I don’t think that any of us are planning to go down there,” he said. “We’re all here to make it.”
Sutter made his Albany debut in the second half of last season after seeing his ice time decrease in Carolina, scoring 12 points in 22 games for the River Rats.
“It was good to play some more minutes for sure,” said Sutter of his AHL experience. “In the second part of last year (with Carolina) I wasn’t playing a lot every night, so it was nice to play. Looking back on it now I think it probably helped, but now I’m ready to move on from there.”
It’s very important to note that, although he started the season in the NHL last year and played 50 games, the acquisition of Yelle and others doesn’t mean that Sutter’s stock as a prospect has fallen. The AHL was not an option at this time last year due to the league’s minimum age requirement, meaning that it was either Carolina or back to juniors, where he had little left to prove.
His status as one to watch for the future was reinforced by a strong showing at the Traverse City prospects tournament, where Sutter earned praise from General Manager Jim Rutherford
while anchoring the team’s first line.
It’s that type of performance, in conjunction with what he’s hoping will be a strong camp, that has Sutter believing he’s ready to spend more time with the Hurricanes.
“There are a lot of guys over there in that dressing room, but I can’t worry about that,” he said. “I’ve just got to keep on playing and prove that I deserve to be here.”