Things are starting to look up for Lukas Sutter, the second round (39th overall), Winnipeg selection of the 2012 NHL entry draft.
He’s looking forward to a fresh start with a new team after being traded from the Western Hockey League’s Saskatoon Blades to the Red Deer Rebels on June 13, 2013. The Rebels franchise happens to be coached by his uncle, Brent Sutter.
“I need a fresh start,” agreed the younger Sutter. “I think you can go through a lot with an organization and it comes to a point that you need a change. So whether it's pro hockey or another junior season in Red Deer, I'm looking forward to having a fresh start next year.”
Last year with the Blades, it seemed everything that could go wrong did.
Following his lofty draft status with the Jets, the Lethbridge, Alberta, native failed to live up to expectations in the 2012-13 season with the Blades.
In his fourth season with the team, Sutter dropped off from 28 goals and 59 points, with a plus-minus rating of 15 in 2011-12, to a mere 13 goals and 24 points this season, with a -8 rating.
It was a frustrating year, but Sutter isn’t dwelling on the past.
“From a personal standpoint, I felt like I had a very, very down year. I mean to be successful, you have to be consistent and I don't think I did a very good job at that. And on a team front, it was a lot of highs and lows. It's not acceptable and it wasn't a year that I was happy with, but I learned a lot about myself as a person and as a hockey player. It all comes down to finding consistency,” he noted.
But the 6’1” centre wasn’t the only Blade to struggle this season. The team fell apart in front of the camera crew who followed the team shooting the Sportsnet series, ‘On the Edge: Road to the MasterCard Memorial Cup’. As Sutter tumbled from the second line to the third then fourth line, his frustration mounted.
“There were times where I didn't put myself in the best position to be successful,” he admitted. “It's up to you to create those types of situations for yourself. I'd get disappointed and frustrated with how things were going and I didn't really know how to correct them so I let them go on and on, and it just kind of built up.
“It came to a point where everything was going downhill and I found myself at ground zero, having to build myself back up in the middle of the season, which is pretty difficult. I think I got better through playoffs and the Memorial Cup, but to be a successful hockey player you have to have a good night every night,” he firmly stated.
Speaking with confidence and maturity, Sutter knows what needs to be done moving forward. He hopes a new beginning with the Rebels under his uncle’s coaching will help spark the feisty, gritty play he’s best known for.
“(Uncle Brent) has coached a few of my cousins before so I'm sure it won't be too different, we'll keep it very professional and business-like. It's a coach-player relationship, not an uncle-nephew relationship,” stressed Sutter.
“He's a very proven coach and has done a good job turning out great players. If ever I have a question, he's the guy I call because he'll give me a very straightforward, honest answer. That's just the kind of guy he is, so that'll be good for me as a hockey player.”
Before heading back to Alberta, Sutter is spending his summer in Toronto training with fellow Jets prospects Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba, and Julian Melchiori at the Gary Roberts High Performance Training Centre. He’ll also follow the group to Winnipeg for the Prospect Development Camp in early July.
“Being a westerly guy, I don't really know too many guys out East. So to develop relationships with the guys you'll be going to war with, I think it's important to develop at a young age to build chemistry in the long term. Those are the types of things that go a long way on the ice in terms of going through the wall for each other,” said Sutter, who already feels at home with his Jets prospects family.