Canucks Army Player Profiles: Brandon Sutter

Photo Credit: Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports

The Canucks are hoping that for a second straight season, they’ve found a pivot that can defy the underlying metrics to become a building block for the franchise going forward. In trading Nick Bonino for Brandon Sutter, they think they’ve trumped the house for a second straight season.

What separates Sutter from his predecessor are a series of physical attributes that Canucks management felt were lacking from the Canucks lineup against bigger, faster teams last season. Standing at 6’3, Sutter provides the size they so desperately wanted – his longer stride will go a long way in addressing the issue of team speed, as well. Sutter is also a right-hand shot, an asset otherwise absent from their lineup.

The Canucks are hoping that a new role will bring out the best in Sutter. I think they’re in tough and you’ll get a good hint as to why, when we break him down on the other side of the jump.

The Origin

After putting together two very solid – if unspectacular – seasons with Red Deer Rebels of the WHL, Sutter was selected 11th overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes. In retrospect, his pedestrian counting stats would suggest it was a hefty reach by the Hurricanes. In all likelihood, scouts fell into the trap of weighting size and defensive acumen far too heavily – an assumption backed by the fact that Sutter never produced at a PPG pace at any point in his junior career.

It didn’t take long for Sutter to graduate to the pro ranks, with the Hurricanes dressing him in just his draft+2 season. There were growing pains early, but Sutter managed to acclimate by his second season, posting career highs in goals, assists and points – all of which stand to this day. Sutter was used primarily as the second line center and performed admirably offensively, although his possession metrics left much to be desired.

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With the Hurricanes in dire need of an offensive facelift, they turned to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Jordan Staal – the brother of their first line center, Eric Staal. Moving Jordan Staal meant the Pens would need a replacement in the three hole at center. This paved the way for Sutter as the centrepiece of the return package for Staal. 

Upon joining the Penguins, Sutter’s role was diminished to that of the shutdown center. Generally speaking, the consensus was that Sutter would thrive in this role, as it honed in on his best traits as a forward.

Whether a byproduct of bad linemates, deployments or a generally poor fit, the Sutter experiment didn’t necessarily go as planned in Pittsburgh. The underlying metrics – production or possession alike – gradually regressed, to the point where Sutter was grossly underperforming for his most menial of roles. As the lynchpin in the anchor that was Pittsburgh’s bottom-six, Sutter was dispatched by the Penguins in exchange for Bonino, Adam Clendenning and a second round pick this last off-season. 

Career Statistics

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What to Expect in 2015-16

While the Canucks have Sutter penciled into their second line, it might not be in the best interest of the team, or the player, to deploy him as such. Sutter isn’t necessarily a good two-way player, insofar as he can’t contribute offensively. He is, however, a very effective defensive forward.

Where the Canucks will find the most success with Sutter is playing him to his strengths. Provide him two play driving wingers and slant his zone starts defensively so that he might help the offence by proxy – lessening the defensive load placed on the shoulders of other, more prolific forwards. Sutter is more than capable of limiting shot quality; the problem being he does it at both ends of the rink.

Should the Canucks create a favourable environment for Sutter, it’s entirely likely that they can get their moneys worth. 

Career Milestones

  • Represented Canada at 2008 World Junior Hockey Championships (Gold Medal)
  • Represented Canada at 2008 Canada-Russia Super Junior Series (Victory, 5 points in 8 games)


  • bigdaddykane

    The key is allowing him to take the defensive zone starts, freeing up Horvat to get more starts in the offensive zone.
    Horvat was type-cast as a 3rd liner, but showed more offense than many expected.
    Sutter allows Horvat to get a chance to blossom offensively, rather than being pigeon-holed into that bottom 6 role.

    As J.D. mentioned, Sutter’s contribution will be offense by-proxy, rather than what he actually puts on the board.

  • bigdaddykane

    If Sutter cannot perform on offense then he has to be a leader in the defensive game. There is not reason to believe he cannot compete in the western conference.

  • bigdaddykane

    I read a quote by Sid the kid” Brandon Sutter is a realy good player. The most undervalued on the team”. Dejardins job is to find the right fit for him. Third line center with Gaunce and Hansen may work.

  • bigdaddykane

    Nice highlight reel. He can skate well and shoot well. Hopefully he will score 20 goals per year and 40+ points (for the next 6 years…gulp), then the trade and contract extension will be reasonable.

  • bigdaddykane

    Also, didn’t realize he was never point per game in junior, unlike say Brad Richardson or Zack Kassian. He should be deployed accordingly, as you say. Expecting him to grow into a 2nd line center may be setting expectations unreasonably high.

    Horvat, was a point per game in his draft year and exploded in playoffs and following year. Seems like more probable to think he can grow into a 2nd line center.

  • bigdaddykane

    The more I read about the Canucks this year, the more interested I become in their 1970 NHL birth twin the Sabres.
    Adding Evander Kane, Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel should make them the biggest gainers in points this year.
    If the Edmonton Oilers do not make the playoffs I think they should lose every player taken with a top-three draft pick for the crime of wasting talent.

  • bigdaddykane

    i really thought a sutter roast was coming but instead…a reasonable, balanced assessment and a ‘let’s see’ attitude. good stuff. I feel better informed for reading it. Thank you CA.

    The last bunch of years I’ve felt the pens were kind of a weird team. a lot of hype and not much sizzle. a lot of strange pressure there(not nearly competitve enough but consistently picked by pundits as a cup contender, all part of the nhl’s star-hype marketing program.) I think it’s going to take sutter a bit of time to adjust to his new team/conference and there will definitely be growing pains(the western conference is very much the bestern conference…obviously.) But I kinda think( or probably just want to think because i’m a canuck fan) that he’s gonna be okay, now he’s away from the pens, and then some, and that he will provide, eventually, a very necessary service as a checking centre.

  • Spiel

    This is all about the KISS principle.
    Sutter can skate, Bonino can’t.

    When your #1C Henrik Sedin is also not the fleetest of foot, you can’t have your other centers slow too.

  • bigdaddykane

    Bonino, God bless his soul, was where offense went to die in the playoffs last year. Calgary breezed by him and bieksa like a turnstile in the way of a bunch of 4th graders trying to get on the rollercoaster. He was also undetectable from November to February. Further, he was terrible in the face off dot. Sutter will be better simply by not getting abused in matchups with Backes et al. I’d like CA to break down playoff numbers sometime. Because based on regular season play Phil Kessel is much much better than Toews. Which player would you rather have on your team again? Sutter seems like a playoffs guy. On a happier note, that line of Horvat Virtanen and Baerstchi looked awesome last night. The future is here finally