While much of the hockey world converged on Pittsburgh for the 2012 NHL Draft on June 22, Brandon Sutter
was hundreds of miles away in his home province of Alberta attending his friend’s 23rd birthday party.
While relaxing in the sunshine on the deck, Sutter received a call that changed his life.
It was Hurricanes vice president of hockey operations Ron Francis, calling to tell Sutter that he’d been traded to Pittsburgh along with Brian Dumoulin and the eighth-overall pick of the 2012 NHL Draft (Derrick Pouliot) as part of the deal that sent Jordan Staal to Carolina – the biggest Penguins trade of the past decade.
At that moment, the party was over for Sutter.
“It was a tough couple of hours,” said Sutter, who had never been traded before in his hockey career. “It’s such a weird thing. You don’t expect it. It’s a new feel for sure.”
But after just a couple of days, Sutter recovered from the initial shock and began feeling excited about his new situation. And now that a whole month has passed? He’s “really, really pumped” about his new team – especially after arriving in Pittsburgh this week for his introduction to the Penguins.
“It’s definitely an awesome facility,” Sutter said Wednesday of CONSOL Energy Center, the arena he’ll now call home. “It’s something I’ve never seen before. The building is top-notch and it’s a pretty cool city. I’m just excited to be here. I’m trying to find my footing a little bit and get to know my way around and meet some people. So far, so good.”
Sutter, 23, spends his summers in Sylvan Lake, Alberta and works out with all his buddies in the nearby city of Red Deer, where he played junior hockey. His trek to Pennsylvania started with a flight from Sylvan Lake to Carolina, where he packed all of his belongings into his car and made the roughly nine-hour drive up to Pittsburgh.
“Thankfully I was still renting all my furniture and stuff, so I just had to get my clothes and all that,” Sutter joked. “So now I just have to look for a place to go. I’m here a couple days. I’m going to look around and see if I can find a place right away. If not, then I’ll find a place I can get into in a month’s time. We’ll see how it goes.”
Upon arriving at the arena this morning, Sutter met with Penguins general manager Ray Shero in person for the first time since the trade (head coach Dan Bylsma is on vacation, but Sutter’s spoken to him on the phone).
“It was a normal conversation,” Sutter said of talking with Shero. “They said they’re excited to have me. More or less we talked about the summer. I think he’s excited and I’m excited.”
Sutter won’t be sitting down to video sessions and chalk talk this week, because his first visit is all about getting comfortable – not overwhelmed. He’ll have plenty of time to learn the Penguins’ on-ice tendencies in training camp, and besides, his role won’t differ greatly from the one he played in Carolina.
Sutter is a strong, two-way center that will slot in well as the third center behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Sutter excels as a shutdown defender and on the penalty kill, which he will likely do with Pittsburgh. He also hopes to provide some offensive punch from the third line and supply scoring depth from that part of the lineup.
“It’s similar to what I was playing before, but I’m playing on a deeper team,” he said. “That’s exciting. The opportunity that you have here playing that role is huge. It comes with a lot of responsibility. I’m really looking forward to it. It should be a lot of fun.”
At the arena this morning, Sutter also got introduced to Penguins forward Matt Cooke – who isn’t the first new teammate to welcome him to the organization.
“I’ve talked to (Sidney Crosby) a couple times,” Sutter said. “A lot of it is just where to live and stuff like that to help get me settled. He was positive about the team and organization. It’s a world-class facility and sounds like a lot of good people are working here. It’s a good place to be. … Everyone’s been really welcoming.
“I think it’s no secret they’ve got a pretty special group. Now I feel I’m part of that now, and that’s exciting. I don’t even know what to say. I’ve had to play against this team enough, I think it’s nice to be on the other side of it now.”
There’s still a lot of time before the 2012-13 season gets underway, but Sutter is anxious to get on the ice with his new teammates and get going.
“When you’re playing with a couple of the best players in the world and a lot of good players supporting that, it’s exciting,” he said. “It’s a team that’s won recently. Every year they’re the team to beat. To be a part of that now is awesome. I want to help with that and win some games here. I’m really looking forward to it.”