With injuries to Kirby Dach and Jonathan Toews, Pius Suter has been an unlikely surprise for the Chicago Blackhawks. Suter, unrelated to the hockey royalty Sutter family, grew and played his junior career in Switzerland. While never drafted, Suter certainly hasn’t gone under the radar.
He has played internationally for Switzerland since 2013 and has been invited to NHL camps since 2017. The young center spent most of his Swiss career at ZSC Lions, a top player contributing goals, assists, and championships to the Zürich club.
Pius Suter The Potential Savior of the Chicago Blackhawks
In the 2019-2020 season, Suter won the MVP award and recorded 30 goals and 23 assists. This season wasn’t a fluke for Suter, he previously led the team in assists with 28 in the 2017-2018 season, and was a big reason for the Lions winning the National League championship that year. Savvy hawks fans might remember one of the Lions who previously played with Chicago: Marcus Krüger.
Another big similarity for both the Lions and the Blackhawks is the celebratory goal music. Chelsea Dagger played all over Suter’s extensive highlight reel. In July 2020 Suter implemented his exit clause to join the Blackhawks on a one-year club-friendly contract.
International and NHL Experience
Suter has been making waves in more than just the Swiss league. The lefthanded forward has played with and against some terrific talent in his nine seasons as a skater. Wherever he goes, Suter seems to find the back of the net. Having played internationally for Switzerland since 2013 he has collected 20 points in 33 appearances.
The most notable performance was in the 2018 Olympics. Against host country South Korea, Suter scored a hat trick in an 8-0 rout of their opponents. His experience has drawn attention from multiple NHL teams including the Ottawa Senators and New York Islanders. The NHL invites and workouts motivated Suter to push his game to the next level. He finally earned himself a full-time opportunity for one of the original-six squads this season.
His Role for the Hawks
The Blackhawks had to search for alternative options filling out the roster after the open letter to fans declared the team was going to rebuild for the next couple of seasons. Suter was a low risk potentially high reward acquisition that was set to be featured on the backend rotation. After injuries and illness, two of the top centers were on the shelf his role was greatly expanded.
The constantly shifting first line for the Hawks featured Suter, Alex DeBrincat, and Patrick Kane against the Detroit Redwings last Sunday. It was a good night for the top line, two goals at even strength and one additional power-play goal, all scored by the Swiss native. It was the first hat trick by a Blackhawks rookie in the first six games of the season in over ninety years.
As a player, Suter is known for quick hands, wise decision making, and a nose for the net. When he has the puck, don’t blink. Most of his shots are likely to come off rebounds, redirects, and wristers. Very little of his shift time will be spent at the point, despite being under six foot most of his skating is done in the crease and slot.
When he does have the puck he is constantly looking up at his teammates or the net. Suter also excels at elevating the puck no matter what position his stick is in. While not the hardest hit shot, the puck jumps off the blade and catches most defenders and goalkeepers off guard.
Where he will have to improve is in his strength and tenacity. In the young season, he won about 43% of faceoffs. A number that will need to boost if he wants to stay on in crucial situations. As the smallest center on the roster, he will have a target on his back as top teams will try to bully him off the puck.
It will be interesting to see if the Blackhawks trainers and dieticians will try adding muscle to Suter’s slim frame or if they fear it will cost him his scoring and skating ability. The Blackhawks can afford to be more patient when it comes to their young players as opposed to years past. Expect to see much more Pius Suter on your television in the coming months.