The Minnesota Wild are starting to become a very veteran team with a majority of their players over the age of 25. Defenseman Ryan Suter is no different as he entered his 16th season at 36 years of age this year. In the last 16, he hasn’t been the biggest goal scorer, but he has managed to find ways to get points. He’s also found many ways to defend them against his own team as well.
This season may look different, but for Suter you wouldn’t know it unless you look at his numbers. He’s had smaller numbers compared to seasons past, but this has obviously been unlike any season before it with nearly 30 fewer games than before. As the playoffs have started, Suter has found that extra step in his game, but it’s not all scoring.
Suter’s Defensive Prowess
Clearly, Suter’s main job is defense and he’s done a great job of it over the last 16 seasons. He played in all of the Wild’s 56 regular-season games this season, and managed to have three goals and 16 assists for 19 points. He tallied around 22 minutes a game, while on the defensive side he managed to have 38 hits and 65 blocks.
Neither the hits nor the blocks were number one on the team, but they all contributed to his defense of the goal. There’s no doubt he’s been one of the best defensemen in the National Hockey League over the years. His time on ice is evidence of that — over the span of his career he’s averaged 25 minutes on the ice and that number has typically landed him near the top five in the NHL over that time. He spends nearly half the game on the ice helping to defend his goalie.
The last few seasons, Suter’s numbers have been pretty consistent, at or above 30 points the last 10 seasons until this one. However, it’s not surprising his numbers have dropped slightly this season with everything that has gone on, from starting halfway through a normal season to having just 56 games compared to 82.
One thing that was normal this season for Suter, despite all the changes, was the fact that he played in all of the Wild’s games. He’s managed to do this eight other times throughout his career, and the other nine seasons he played in at least three-fourths of the games and only one season where it was just over half.
There may have been some normalcy this season for Suter in games played, but one stat has taken a hit mainly this season. As mentioned before, his time on ice is usually quite remarkable, but this season it’s the lowest it’s been since his first three seasons in the league. This could be a sign of a couple of things, such as Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, and Matt Dumba all becoming veterans over the last few seasons, using up more ice time, and the fact that Suter isn’t getting any younger.
It’s to be expected that as his age continues to go up, his on-ice time will go down. This is in part to make room for new, younger skaters and to also give his body a break. He may play like a 25-year-old, but his body still needs time to recover. He’s also had some ankle injuries in the last few seasons that are bound to have taken their toll as well.
With the playoffs in full swing, Suter hasn’t had any points yet so far in three games, but he’s managed to take his defensive game a step up. He’s had a total of six hits as well as six blocks in those three games against the Vegas Golden Knights. Despite his time on ice being lower during the regular season, it’s actually gone up for the playoffs — he went from 22 minutes during the regular season to almost 24 minutes during the playoffs.
Mentioning his age once again, Suter’s time with the Wild, or hockey in general, will undoubtedly be coming to an end in these next few years. It’s hard to say how long he has, but hopefully it’ll be a while yet. Even though his numbers have taken a drop this season, he’s still playing very well defensively.
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For Suter, age is just a number as he continues to keep his defensive game up. His main job is to protect the net from offensive attacks and he does that quite well. Watching these last few playoff games, Suter has definitely been noticeable for his protection of the net and even getting some offensive shots as well. He’s had five shots in three games and will hopefully keep producing those numbers.
Suter still has four years left on his contract, not including this season. Hopefully, for the Wild, he’ll continue his defensive prowess and also throw some points in there as well. He’s a consistent presence on the ice and as an assistant captain.
The Wild are down two games to one and will need Suter’s abilities going forward to keep them in the series and the playoffs. Regardless of what happens this season, Suter has proven himself a valuable asset and one the Wild will want to keep around if his game stays consistent.
Mariah Holland is a contributing Minnesota Wild writer for THW as well as a cohost on the THW Youtube show Chicks & Sticks which produces a new show every Friday. She’s been covering the Wild at THW for just over eight months and has been on Chicks & Sticks since it started in early May. She is always looking for different angles to cover the Wild and dig deeper into the stories surrounding the team.