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Suter leading American contingent in more than just ice time

Wild defenseman has been an important cog in Team USA's strong showing at IIHF World Championship

by Aaron Vickers / Special to

KOSICE, Slovakia -- Really, he could be back home by now, feet up, cold one in hand, watching over a still lake, reflecting on a season that had him as not only the busiest member of the Wild but also most active player in the National Hockey League. 

But there's no passing, Ryan Suter suggested. Not even after seeing an NHL-high 2,188 minutes of ice time this season.

Instead of a little rest and relaxation, Suter is back patrolling the blue line just a month after ending in Minnesota with Team USA at the 2019 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia.

"A lot of people think I'm crazy," admitted Suter, who, not surprisingly, leads both the Americans and the tournament in ice time with 151:56, an average of 25:19 per game. "But it's fun. It's fun playing with a lot of these young guys. I'm friends with a lot of them but to play with them is nice.

"I also get to experience this with my family. I have an older boy now. It'll mean a lot for him to be here."

Yes, Suter is sharing the experience with some youth, both on and off the ice.

Of Suter's four children, the two eldest have made the trek across the Atlantic to support dad. Brooks, 8, and Avery, 5, have joined Suter's bid for his first gold medal in international action since a first-place finish at the 2004 IIHF World Junior Championship.

But they aren't the only kids Suter is tasked with keeping track of in Slovakia.

"I was joking with some of these guys, like (2019 NHL Draft prospect) Jack Hughes here…he's closer to my kid's age than he is me," said Suter, who had 47 points (seven goals, 40 assists) this season and has five assists in his first six games at the World Championship. It's a lot of fun though, to be a part of."

Tweet from @usahockey: Ryan Suter does juuuust enough to keep this one out! #MensWorlds2-1 #TeamUSA with less than five to play in the 2nd.

Suter, at 34, is the eldest member of Team USA and most experienced veteran, too.

His 1,073 games of NHL experience are far and away the most of any player on the roster. His 14 forays into international action with Team USA are as well.

He logged an appearance at the World Under-17 Challenge in 2001 and two more at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship in 2002 and 2003. He's thrice represented Team USA at the IIHF World Junior Championship in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

He's now been to the World Championship five times (2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2019) and represented the Red, White and Blue at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics, as well as a stint at the World Cup of Hockey 2016.

"I think it's important," Suter said. "USA Hockey has given me a lot and for me to come back and support it's obviously a huge honor. It's a huge honor to play for this team anytime you wear the USA jersey."

It says a lot that Suter is willing, suggested Team USA head coach Jeff Blashill.

"Super impressive," Blashill said. "I think it speaks to the success we've had the last couple years in terms of winning games I think has given our guys the belief that we can field a team that's good enough to win. Now there's lots of work to do in order to win, but he's saying yes with the idea that this team has a chance."

It wasn't that long ago that the 34-year-old blueliner was the mentee.

A fresh-faced 20-year-old having wrapped his first season of professional hockey with Milwaukee of the American Hockey League, Suter found himself on the World Championship stage for the first time.

Now, he's the mentor.

"He's a great guy to look up," said Wild teammate Luke Kunin, a late addition to Team USA after he himself finishing a long season complete with an 11-game playoff push with Iowa. "He works so hard. It's fun to see him here."

Fun to have him, too.

"He's got a good way about him," Blashill said. "He's a guy who understands the moment and I think he's done a really good job of being pretty even keeled. He doesn't get up too high, too low. He's worked extremely hard. He's bought into our messaging as an assistant captain. He's helped to relay that messaging.

"I think he's done a really good job. I've been real impressed with him."

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