EVERETT, Wash. – For years, coaches across sports have reiterated that the name on the front of the uniform is more important than the name on the back. For one 2018 Draft Prospect in particular, this mantra rings especially true.
Everett Silvertips forward Riley Sutter has a long bloodline of esteemed hockey players that have gone before him to make their mark on NHL ice and throughout the world of hockey. His father, Ron Sutter, played nearly twenty years in the NHL and is now on staff with the Calgary Flames (his former team) for player development.
However, with the June 22-23 NHL Entry Draft only days away, the 18-year-old is ready to make his own way.
“Some people look at my name and expect me to definitely go pro and play in the NHL,” said Sutter. “But I want to pave my own path and see where my own road takes me.”
The current 6’3, 205-pound right winger was selected by Everett in the sixth round (#125) of the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft. Since then, his road has been winding. With an injury that put him out of a tough, 31-game and four point rookie season, Sutter said the summer after his first year was a time to reflect on what he could improve to help himself and his team move forward.
Not to be knocked down, he returned to Everett for his second year with a fire burning inside of him. Within ten games, he had already logged seven points (four goals, three assists). His improvements from the previous season were night and day.
In the last two years, his style of play has continued to consistently improve as he has become one of the most influential players on his team.
“Following that first season, my teammates and parents and the Tips staff pushed me to heal and get better on and off the ice while staying positive,” said Sutter.
With a career-high of 53 points in his 2017-18 season (25 goals, 28 assists) and another 19 in the playoffs (nine goals, ten assists), Sutter ranks fifth in goals across the Tips roster for regular and post-season play. He is strong on face offs, with a 52.4% success rate logged for his last regular season (715/1363) and led his team in game-winning goals for the duration of the playoffs. The right-shooting forward credits his improvement to boosted confidence that was triggered by an increase of ice time and opportunities. Now, he is Everett’s standing alternate captain for his 2018-19 season.
“I will do anything in my power to help my team succeed,” said Sutter, “whether that’s filling into any roll, center or wing, or through how I lead the boys.”
Even after massive improvements in his game, Sutter is still looking forward to the progress he will need to see before hitting professional ice.
“I believe I am a good two-way forward with a good shot, but I could definitely be more selfish with the puck. I need to be quicker in my first few steps and in my cross overs, and I’m also looking to take more of a leadership roll on and off the ice and throughout the community,” said Sutter.
His determination and preparation have readied him for the following season while also putting him into the right mindset for the upcoming draft. Sutter will the last second-generation member of his family to see the Entry Draft floor, following five of his cousins who have been drafted across the last two decades.
Former teammate and Silvertips defenseman Kevin Davis believes Sutter’s capacity and discipline will carry him far into his career.
“No one can say enough good things about him,” said Davis. “His dedication, leadership, and his work ethic will take him a long way in life.”
While Sutter’s progress and preparedness cannot go without credit to his family, it was up to him to make something of it. He believes the looming draft will be a whirlwind, but is glad he can experience the Dallas-based event with those who have influenced him most.
“There is definitely a little bit of pressure on me. I don’t want to let the legacy down; I want to be the next in my family to take the forward step while finding my own path,” said Sutter.
Ranked at No. 80 among North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting Service’s final pre-draft rankings, Sutter said his thinks he feels ready and is excited to see what happens in Dallas. However, the Calgary, Alta. native is keeping his head on his shoulders and staying focused on what is guaranteed.
“Either way, I’ll be back in Everett in the fall taking the steps I need to find my way to being successful,” said Sutter. “I’ll do whatever it takes to get to that level and Everett is the first step to that.”
Sutter is in his first year of eligibility for the NHL Entry Draft and will return to the Everett Silvertips for his fourth season in 2018-19.