Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Suter turning hype into praise

He’s the prized recruit in the Wisconsin hockey team’s top-rated class.

He was the seventh overall selection in this June’s NHL Entry Draft by the Nashville Predators.

His father was a member of the gold-medal-winning 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, and his uncle was a four-time NHL All-Star.


So, even bearing in mind that pressure on athletes is a concept the sports media routinely over-hypes, you could forgive rookie defenseman Ryan Suter for feeling just a little.

If he is, however, he’s not letting on.

“[Pressure] is not as big as you guys make it out to be,” Suter said. “It’s there, but it’s not, you know?”

While Suter plays down the hype, he seems to be living up to it through his first six games in the red and white.

He has rarely appeared to be in over his head, looking smooth and confident and demonstrating the ability to make the right play in almost any situation.

He’s certainly made a believer out of head coach Mike Eaves.

“He’s everything that we thought he would be,” Eaves said. “If there was an epitome of what we’re looking at in terms of the whole package of skill, character, work ethic, love of the game, he comes pretty close to being that.”

To earn such enthusiastic praise from the notoriously hard-nosed Eaves, Suter is clearly doing something right. He’s been especially impressive in his own end, where his defensive game is surprisingly advanced for a freshman, even one so highly touted.

Suter’s plus-two rating thus far is second on the team to forward Ryan MacMurchy’s plus-four.

“As defensemen, I think how we grade ourselves is our plus-minus,” Suter said. “Before every game, me and (Tom) Gilbert, my partner, that’s what we say: ‘We’re going to be plus today.'”

Suter’s offense hasn’t yet caught up with his defense. But when it does, he’ll really be a formidable presence on the Badgers’ blue line.

Though Suter clearly has the skating ability, puck-handling skills and hockey sense to be a solid offensive contributor, he’s still feeling his way a little in the early going, trying to find the right balance between risk-taking and responsibility.

“I’m trying to get more involved,” Suter said. “It takes a while to get used to these guys, to get more involved with them and have more fun.”

Mike Eaves is confident that Suter will contribute more points to his club down the road.

“I don’t think he’s found his groove yet, because the numbers haven’t been there,” Eaves said, “But you can tell, he commands the puck.”

Eaves believes that Suter is still adjusting to the quicker pace of the college game, but he said, “[the offense] will come.”

Suter is undoubtedly better prepared for the speed of college hockey after playing with the U.S. National Junior Team under Eaves last year.

Suter was just recently named to the team again this year, along with fellow UW freshman defender Jeff Likens, who will represent his country for the first time.

“It’s a whole other level of competition,” Suter said. “Every time you get to play against elite players from another country, it’s a different experience.

“It’s a fun experience, but you’ve got to be ready to go.”

Suter is also adjusting to the physical nature of the college game. As the most well-known player on the team, Suter is somewhat of a target for abuse from opposing players, and he is working to control his emotions in the heat of battle.

He took 13 minutes in penalties in the Badgers’ last two games against Quinnipiac, including a five-minute slashing major for swinging his stick at the head of winger John Kelly.

Suter apologized to Eaves after the game and seems to have learned his lesson, so it’s hard to imagine his temper becoming a recurring problem.

In fact, the only real problem with Suter, at least from Wisconsin’s perspective, is that he might be too good.

He nearly signed with Nashville this summer after they chose him with their first-round pick in the NHL Entry Draft, and it’s possible he might depart after this season.

“It’ll depend on how Nashville and he feel this year went in terms of his progress,” Eaves said. “And that won’t be determined until the second half of the year and [they decide] whether or not another year will help him grow … that’s the big question.”

Any way you slice it, there’s a good chance that Suter might only have one season to contribute to the Badgers and take them as far as he can.

Hey, no pressure.

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