Through all the trades, rumors and hearsay swirling around CONSOL Energy Center during Round 1 of the 2012 NHL Draft on Friday, Penguins general manager Ray Shero remained steadfast on one thing.
The blockbuster trade that sent Jordan Staal to Carolina would not have happened unless Brandon Sutter was part of the deal.
“Brandon was the key to the deal for us,” Shero said. “An NHL-ready Brandon Sutter is a proven player in the league.”
The Penguins received Sutter, defenseman Brian Dumoulin and the eighth-overall pick (Derrick Pouliot) in exchange for Staal – and it’s a deal that “just felt right” to Shero.
Because with Sutter in the organization, the three-center model remains intact. Sure, it’s going to look different than it did during Staal’s six years here. But it’s going to work.
“We’ve got Brandon Sutter, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin,” Shero said. “Those are three really good NHL centers. That’s the strength of our team. We’re looking to having Brandon be a big part of that group. It was pretty important to me in terms of building this team to have a young center like that to go with Crosby and Malkin. It makes our team a good team still and in the future moving forward. We’re happy to do that.”
Take a closer look at Sutter and the type of game he plays, and it’s easy to see why he should mesh seamlessly with Crosby, Malkin and the Penguins organization in general.
He’s a mature, responsible two-way center who especially strong in his own end, as he was the Hurricanes’ top penalty killing forward last season – averaging 2:20 shorthanded minutes per game and ranking fourth (tied) in the NHL with a career-high three shorthanded goals.
Sutter led all Hurricanes forwards with 85 blocked shots last season, ranked second on the team with 61 takeaways and is tasked with shutting down opposing teams’ top players during his shifts.
And even given those tough assignments, Sutter's offensive game continues to evolve. He hit 21 goals his sophomore season, 14 the next and 17 in 2011-12.
But what perhaps sticks out the most about Sutter are his leadership abilities. One prime example is that he impressed the Hurricanes so much after his rookie year that he was named one of two Carolina alternate captains at just 21 years old the following season.
“We love his character. We love what he brings,” Shero said.
“It’s hard to find guys like that. Those center icemen are difficult to find. He’s the key to the deal for us and we look forward to having him for many years.”