The Blackhawks have a history of landing high-end European players, which most recently includes Dominik Kubalik and Artemi Panarin. And they added another one to that list over the offseason in Pius Suter.
Suter was named MVP of Switzerland's National League-A last season after leading all skaters with 30 goals and 53 points in 50 games for the ZSC Lions. For reference, Kubalik won the MVP the year prior after registering 25 goals and 57 points in the same league.
It didn't take long for Suter to have his breakout performance at the NHL level.
Suter scored his first career NHL goal in just his sixth game on Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings but he didn't stop there. He scored his second one 5:02 later and completed the hat trick in the third period after looking off Patrick Kane on a 2-on-1 and snapping it past Jonathan Bernier.
Suter became the second player in franchise history to score each of his first three career NHL goals in the same game, joining Bill Kendall on Dec. 17, 1933.
"I was pumped up," Suter said following a 6-2 win. "I was excited cause you know what the next one's going to mean. Just kind of happy it worked out. You got the chance and put it in. Just really happy. Also to kind of put the game away as well."
The Blackhawks were reportedly competing with at least eight other NHL teams for Suter's services but won out because of their track record and the opportunity to play a large role. Another factor was assistant coach Marc Crawford, who served as the head coach during Suter's rookie season with the Lions.
"It's a good spot for me to earn my spot and be helpful to the team," Suter said in his video conference call introduction. "At the end, it was just a decision I felt most comfortable with."
The Blackhawks followed Suter "pretty closely," according to GM Stan Bowman, and head coach Jeremy Colliton acknowledged they watched a lot of film on him. One of the things they appreciated about his game is his willingness to go to the dirty areas.
Suter is only 5-foot-9, 176 pounds but scores most of his goals from up close. Two of his three goals on Sunday came from 12-13-feet out.
"He's improved his mobility from last year to this year," Colliton said. "He's a very smart player, he's really good around the net, but his skating has allowed him to drive play and get through the neutral zone, get out of D-zone. Obviously, he's playing with a couple pretty good players, but he can help them get out of D-zone and get attacking off the rush and in the offensive zone. It can really help us. It was a very strong game for him."
Suter's NHL career is just getting going and it might be too early to start thinking about Calder Trophy aspirations, but he certainly can if he builds on Sunday's performance and continues to produce.
"He’s crafty," Connor Murphy said. "As a centerman, what sticks out are the guys that can separate and make plays, have that intelligence and the ability to read the ice and read the play and kind of control the way that the rushes are sorting out. He showed that today and he had that awareness to get pucks by guys on the rush, or even around the net, that touch to get it through.
"That’s important and it’s impressive to see just starting out in the NHL. Definitely, we’re lucky to have him."
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