After being traded to the Penguins during the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Brandon Sutter had a pretty successful opening season with the organization.
Finishing the 48-game season with 19 points (11G, 8A) and skating a plus-3 rating, Sutter registered six points better than the league average (13).
And although he won’t be receiving props for his scoring, Sutter has shown that he can be very effective in his role as third-line center and penalty killer.
While number-16 was impressive in his debut season with Pittsburgh, he will however have to step it up in his second season.
For one — Sutter could use improvement in the faceoff circle after finishing the season with only a 50.2 faceoff win percentage.
With Sutter playing such a huge role on the penalty kill, he must improve his faceoff stats when the Pens are shorthanded — he only managed to win as many faceoffs as he lost (59 to 59).
When Pittsburgh is down a man, Matt Cooke averaged the second most time-on-ice per game. With Cooke moving on, Sutter is going to have to step up in Cooke’s place as one of the premiere penalty killers for the team.
He also must be able to bring in scoring when Crosby and Malkin are having a bad game and/or injured — which happens more often than the team would like.
It’s necessary for Sutter to be a playmaker on his line in order to take some pressure off of the star centers.
Balanced scoring was one of the weaknesses of the 2012-13 Penguins — especially during the playoffs.
The entire Pittsburgh roster had 338 points combined last season — of those points, 229 of them were produced by the top-6 forwards (predicted for next season), and 57 were accounted for players who are no longer on the team.
That leaves the bottom-six forwards with a mere 52 points — and that’s not good enough.
Sutter must help the bottom-six scoring next season for the Pens — especially with the limited amount of talent the organization could bring in after sending big contracts to their star players.
If the 24-year-old forward is able to increase his point total, win more faceoffs and be furthermore efficient on the penalty kill next season — the Pittsburgh lineup will without a doubt be more balanced.
The key to the Pens proper symmetry starts with Sutter.