The sudden impact of being a second round draft pick, in a major hockey market, creates big expectations. But suddenly, Lukas Sutter is no longer a Winnipeg Jets prospect. The last two years have been a roller coaster for Lukas Sutter. Unfortunately, this roller coaster only goes downward.
Since being drafted 39th in the second round in 2012, the Lethbridge, Alberta native has struggled to produce in the WHL. When Sutter was drafted in the second round, it was a surprise to many. Public rankings and scouting reports had Sutter ranked below his ultimate draft position. At the time, many suggested he would be a late third or fourth round pick. Nevertheless, the Jets saw something in him to pull the trigger on the pick.
Looking back on it now, the Jets brass must be regretting the pick or at least searching for answers about what exactly went wrong. In the 2011-2012 season, Sutter produced 59 points (28G & 31A) in 70 games. In addition to that, Sutter displayed his strong defensive play and penalty killing ability. His game is sprinkled with his physical edge and hard working style. His last name was also very attractive to hockey fans.
Lukas’s bloodlines bleed hockey. His father is Rich Sutter who played 874 career NHL games. His cousin Brandon Sutter is a centre for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Along with that 5 of his uncles played in the NHL. The Sutter’s are Canada’s Royal Hockey Family. Having Sutter engraved on the back of your jersey always puts you in the spotlight, for both the right reasons and for the wrong. In the case for Lukas Sutter, being a second round pick for a Canadian organization and having Sutter your name bar can place a heavy weight on his shoulders.
The Decline of Lukas Sutter
2011-2012 (Draft year)
In the 2011-2012 campaign, Lukas Sutter produced solid counting numbers. Nothing spectacular, but still some solid numbers. But point totals weren't the whole story. Sutter also displayed a strong two way, gritty game and a hard, physical edge. In his draft year, Sutter appeared to be destined for a role as a solid two way depth centre for the Jets.
2012-2013 ( Post Draft Year 1)
After being drafted, a player’s production usually tends to increase. 19 and 20 year olds tend to mature physically and dominate the 16 and 17 year olds in junior hockey. However, in the case of Lukas Sutter, things did not turn out that way. The former second round pick found himself in a fourth line role and mainly asked to help the team on the defensive side. These are not things you want a second round pick to be doing. Sutter was a non factor for the Saskatoon Blades that season, and it also appeared he would become less of a factor in the Jets future plans.
2013-2014 (Post Draft Year 2)
Sutter was traded from the Saskatoon Blades to the Red Deer Rebels. A change of scenery was needed for Sutter. The previous season turned out to be a disaster and a change seemed that it could put him back in the right direction. It could only help that your Uncle Brent is the Head Coach of the team. Unfortunately, his production did not improve. To make it worse, Sutter underwent reconstructive shoulder surgery and his season was finished after 45 games. An unfortunate ending to a poor year.
Who is to Blame?
Blame Chevy! Blame Sutter! Blame his shoulder! Blame the World! Blame. It needs to be someone’s fault right? The blame could go in many directions, but it isn't really fair to play the blame game. A dream crashing and burning can be nothing but a sad story, not just for Jets fans but more importantly Sutter. It’s hard to regain composure when you’re injured. It’s really hard. The added pressure of being part of one of hockey’s most well known family’s hurts too.
Regardless of the whys and the hows behind Lukas Sutter's stunted development, let's hope that this becomes a lesson for Winnipeg Jets General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. Was Sutter was a big reach? Was his draft year was an illusion? Is the issue to do with scouting error? Could something have been done to better support the player? Whatever the case, Lukas Sutter is Chevy's first high profile bust.
As Jets fans we should all wish Sutter all the best and hope he fully recovers from his shoulder surgery. Perhaps he battles through and works his way into the NHL one day. In any draft, in any professional sport, there will be both hits and misses. In the end, for the team, it’s the hits (Scheifele, Trouba, etc) that count, but the misses are a hit too - a big hit to the dreams of a player who grew up dreaming of the NHL. Good luck Lukas.