June 04, 2012 8:59 AM
One may not guess it from his name, but making a career in hockey hasn’t been easy for Brody Sutter.
In trying to become the ninth member of his famous family to play in the NHL, Sutter, 20, has taken the road less traveled. Not only was he left without a team in his first crack at the NHL draft, clubs also passed him over in his major junior draft – a rarity for players who end up advancing to the next level.
The latter is especially notable when considering that one of the Western Hockey League teams that had an opportunity to select him, the Red Deer Rebels, which is run by the Sutter family and counts cousins Brandon and Brett among their alumni, did not.
“I guess they didn’t think I deserved it, and I probably didn’t,” said Sutter.
Two things happened that allowed Sutter to get to the point where the Carolina Hurricanes drafted him with their last pick in 2011, Sutter's second year of eligibility, and then signed him to a three-year, entry-level contract last week. First was a remarkable growth spurt that took him from what he recalls as 5-foot-7 and 120 pounds at the time of his WHL draft to his NHL draft listing of 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds in just a few years.
“It wasn’t like I grew six inches in a year or anything like that,” recalled Sutter. “It was just a few each year.”
Then there’s the work ethic synonymous with his family, starting with his father Duane and five uncles who played in the NHL and continuing with the family’s second generation – the three cousins who currently call Carolina home. The next lazy Sutter will be the first.
“I’ve never had anything handed to me,” said Sutter. “I’m going to keep working like I have to get to where I am now.
“Our family really prides itself on that.”
Up until he signed his first contract on Friday, Sutter wasn’t sure what the future had in store for him. Depending on whether or not the Hurricanes submitted a qualifying offer to retain his rights, he could have either re-entered the draft or signed with any other AHL team.
“I’m happy it worked out this way,” he said.
That made Sutter’s late-season audition in Charlotte all the more important. While he played in just four of a possible 13 games after joining the team following the conclusion of his junior season in Lethbridge, he did enough to make an impression. His tenure was highlighted by his first and only professional goal, an early strike that held up as the game-winner in a crucial April 10 game in Rockford – one that coach Jeff Daniels had previously called the biggest in the team’s two years of existence at the AHL level.
“I think I played well when I got to the AHL and that helped me a lot,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I completely proved that I could play there, but I showed I can in the future.”
That appearance, along with his three others, came while filling in for a handful of injured forwards on the team’s checking lines. That could again be where he ends up in Charlotte next season, as he continues to use his size to win battles along the wall and in the corners. His position could also change, as the team already has four centers on track to return from last season’s team, with perhaps more on the way.
A natural center, Sutter did play wing in his AHL debut in March and would be willing to do so again.
“The biggest thing is my development and playing as much as I can,” he said.
Sutter will have the rest of the summer to work toward that goal, as he planned to continue his training regimen alongside cousin Brett, the Checkers’ captain this past season who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, in Calgary this week.
“Obviously the contract is fun, but it’s just a door opening,” he said. I’ve still got to work hard to get to where I want to go.”