Is Pius Suter the most important player among the new members of the Detroit Red Wings?
It’s a fair question and one well worth debating. Certainly, the addition of goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic, last season’s NHL leader in goals-agianst average and save percentage, could prove vital in bumping up the Red Wings’ number in the win column. Nick Leddy is a slick puck mover capable of igniting the Red Wings’ dismal 30th-ranked power play.
However, neither of them may be able to improve the team in as many areas as Suter is capable of providing. An unrestricted free agent signing who scored 14 goals last season for the Chicago Blackhawks, Suter gives the Wings a stellar No. 2 center to play behind captain Dylan Larkin.
He’s got the offensive skills as both a playmaker and finisher to make a difference with the man advantage. As well, Suter’s repertoire includes the defensive acumen to be a valuable performer when the club is shorthanded.
“It’s different when you have a guy on your bench than when you’re coaching against him,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “When you coach against him, you see flashy skills. When they’re on your bench, you get to know his brain.
“His brain is really good. He’s really smart. Offensively, he’s really smart. Defensively, he can fill a bunch of different roles. He can make a lot of plays, he can play with good players.”
Suter scored 13 of his 14 goals last season for the Blackhawks at even strength. That’s as many even-strength goals as Patrice Bergeron, John Tavares and William Nylander and more than such NHL stars as Patrick Kane (12), Nathan MacKinnon (12) and Gabriel Landeskog (11).
Pius Suter Can Help Red Wings’ Power Play And Penalty Kill
How much uptick could there be in Suter’s offensive productivity as he’s allotted significant power-play ice time with the Red Wings?
“It’s definitely my goal to be out there in every situation,” Suter said. “I want to have that role, get small details right.”
He was averaging just 1:21 of power-play ice time per game last season with the Blackhawks, which was 12th on the team. Suter’s 31 seconds per game of shorthanded ice time rated 15th overall on the club.
“Power play, penalty kill, defensive zone, making plays in the O-zone, he kind of does it all,” said Red Wings forward Robbie Fabbri, also Suter’s teammate and occasional linemate in junior with the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm. “Any team would love to have a guy like that. He’s shown he’s a 200-foot player and it’s going to be big for us.”
It’s Suter’s mind for the game as much as anything that increases his value to the Red Wings. His vision of the ice and hockey IQ are both off the charts in terms of effectiveness.
“I think he’s a really smart player,” Red Wings forward Sam Gagner said. “He’s just one of those guys that’s always in the right position at all times – offensively, defensively. He makes a lot of really good plays out there, good reads.
“He’s gonna be an important part of things for us.”
Suter A Thinking Man’s Player
Suter, 25, is used to flying under the radar. Undrafted into the NHL, he returned to his native Switzerland and became one of the top players in the country’s national league. Suter scored 30 goals during the 2019-20 season, earning a contract with the Blackhawks.
“My development didn’t go crazy high in one year and then stop,” Suter explained. “It was just kind of slow, keep going. That’s maybe why I was a bit older when I got the chance.”
It’s Suter’s hockey acumen that most impresses Blashill.
“He doesn’t have wow you physical tools,” Blashill said. “He doesn’t shoot it a million miles an hour, he doesn’t skate like crazy. He’s not super big but he’s really heady, he’s really smart and he knows where to be.
“When I say smart, it’s both offensively and defensively. He’s good at both those sides. He knows how to play the game of hockey, he’s efficient with the game and so far, he’s done a real good job.
“I think Pius has done a real good job through the preseason. He’s a good player, he knows how to play. He’s an accountable player defensively, he can make some plays offensively.
“I think he’s gonna be a good player for us. How good? He’ll get a chance to show that on a night to night basis but I think he’s solid addition.”
Maybe even the most important addition among the new Red Wings.