Pius Suter is an interesting part of the Chicago Blackhawks prospect pipeline. However, what can we expect this season from the top Swiss scorer?
Up until this past July, Pius Suter was a name I, and many others, knew little if anything about.
A product of the small municipality of Wallisellen, Switzerland, Suter started his career with the Swiss-A league’s ZCS Lions as a part of their junior program before opting to head overseas to continue his junior career. Joining the Guelph Storm of the OHL as a selection in the 2013 CHL Import Draft, Suter struggled to adapt to the North American game at first, posting just 24 points in 66 games in his first season.
The next year, however, Suter would play at a point per game pace, posting 72 points over 61 games alongside current NHLers Robby Fabbri and Tyler Bertuzzi. Afterward, Suter opted to head back overseas to start his professional career, signing a one-year deal with the Lions in December of 2016. Since then, Suter has seen occasional looks from NHL teams, attending the Ottawa Senators rookie camp in 2017 and the New York Islanders training camp in 2018.
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However, he remained unsigned in both cases, continuing his career with the Lions, whom he has spent the entirety of his career thus far with. While a solid player in the Swiss-A league for most of his career, recording 39 points in 36 games in 2017-18, Suter showed his true potential this past season. Prior to the season cancellation due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Suter posted 53 points in 50 games, earning the PostFinance Top Scorer award as the Swiss League (SL) and National League’s (NL) top scorer.
This performance caught the eye of numerous NHL teams, with Suter ultimately signing a one-year entry-level deal with the Chicago Blackhawks on July 16, 2020. While he didn’t suit up for the Hawks in this year’s 24 team playoff format, he’s caught the interest of both fans and analysts, as not much was known about him prior to this season.
Both the Swiss and National Leagues have garnered a reputation in recent years for having some marquee talent, and many former NHLers have signed in either league to continue their careers. Most NHL fans will remember Auston Matthews 2015-16 season, where he played alongside Suter with Zurich, recording 46 points over 36 games prior to his first overall selection in that year’s NHL draft. A look at the league’s previous top scorers prior to Suter, finds familiar faces like two-time 50-point performer Matthew Lombardi, to former Minnesota Wild top scorer Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
The season prior to Suter, another similarly unknown player won the award, in former Los Angeles Kings seventh-round pick Dominik Kubalik. Similar to Suter, Kubalik signed with the Blackhawks last offseason, posting an impressive 46 points over 68 games this season. While its unlikely Suter will be able to produce at quite that level, it does bring up the question of what to expect from Suter this season. At his core, Suter is a talented offensive player, but more in the vein of a playmaker than a sharpshooter like Kubalik.
This past season, despite Suter not benefiting from the same talent as previous years, Zurich still posted a league-best 31-13-5 record. Along with former NHL backup Joni Ortio, Suter was helped by former AHL staple Maxim Noreau and established Swiss player Garett Roe, who posted 39 and 48 points respectively, benefiting from Suter’s play.
In many ways, Suter reminds me of former Detroit Red Wings acquisition Damien Brunner, who briefly made a splash in the NHL in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. Similar to Brunner, Suter will benefit from a host of talented players to play with, like Alex Debrincat, Dylan Strome, Patrick Kane, and Kubalik. While the Hawks struggled this past season with a 32-30-8 record, the continued development of top-five pick Kirby Dach, and the hopeful return to form of many of their key players after mediocre campaigns, could lead to a team which could surprise many, should the NHL season resume play. While still unproven in terms of how he’ll adjust to the smaller ice and higher skill level, Suter carries a high ceiling and a style of play that is befitting of this Blackhawks team.
With this current season still up in the air as to its start date, Chicago loaned Kubalik to the Lions affiliate, the GCK lions of the Swiss Leagues, before officially returning to the Lions on November 4th, 2020. He’ll look to rejoin a Lions team that has struggled thus far this season and play alongside some new acquisitions like former Montreal Canadiens prospect Sven Andrighetto, and longtime Swiss star Denis Hollenstein. It’s a move which will enable Suter to continue his development and be ready to play should this season begin on the proposed January 1st start date. Should he join Chicago, look for Suter to become a solid piece of the Hawks future, and potentially produce solid numbers in a similar vein to Kubalik.
Despite the lack of certainty in terms of the future of this NHL season, this off-season has seen some solid acquisitions, and there’s a chance that Pius Suter, could be another one, for the Chicago Blackhawks.