Last-minute deal nets big man on blueline
Hockey: Oilers acquire Connor Sutton fresh off stint with WHL club
By: By Remy Greer
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 16, 2013 06:00 am
The Okotoks Oilers got what they desperately needed in the waning moments of deadline day.
Connor Sutton is the newest member of the Junior A Oiler blueline after the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) team acquired the rights to the defenceman from the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Jan. 10. Sutton was re-assigned to Junior A by the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Lethbridge Hurricanes earlier in the day.
“It was pretty late in terms of the AJHL trade deadline,” said Oilers head coach/GM James Poole. “We got the paperwork in there about a minute before the deadline.”
For Sutton, deadline day was as hectic and stressful as could be.
“I found out the news in Lethbridge and it was trade deadline day to so I had to hurry back to my billets as fast as I could,” said Sutton, following his first practice with the Oilers on Thursday. “Two and a half hours later I’m at my dad’s office in Calgary and then we talked to a bunch of teams and Okotoks for me just felt like the best fit.”
When Sutton discovered Salmon Arm had too many import players to bring him on the roster he talked to several other clubs in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“I chose this team because they have a good shot this year of winning a title,” Sutton said. The Cochrane native, who lined up with the Spruce Grove Saints and Calgary Mustangs in 2011-12, endured a tough-luck season in Lethbridge with a shoulder injury and two bouts of illness limiting the blueliner to just 12 games with the Hurricanes.
“That’s a class organization and they developed me to be a good hockey player,” Sutton said of the Hurricanes. “They really didn’t have a choice. They need me to get healthy and play some more games so I respect their decision in sending me back. I was a little surprised. I thought they were going to keep me around, but it’s part of the game.”
Being part of a game is a privilege the 19-year-old hasn’t been afforded of late.
The six-foot-three, 215 pound blueliner hasn’t seen game action since Dec. 18.
“When you love the game so much sitting out and watching is painful,” Sutton said. “I’m extremely excited to get back in and do as much as I can for the Oilers.”
The feeling is mutual.
From the Oilers’ perspective, the last second deal was imperative.
Max Mowat’s departure from the team due to a series of head injuries coupled with Kolton Dixon being called back up to the WHL’s Victoria Royals, left a sinkhole sized void on the Okotoks blueline.
“We had a hole on defence we had to fill in terms of our depth and our numbers,” Poole said. “We went through B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan and looked at any option that was remotely possible and it wasn’t looking too good to fill that hole.”
Poole said he feels fortunate to add a player with such a complete game on the backend, blended with a much-needed mean streak for the Oilers.
“He’s got some size to him and a bit of a physical element to his game,” Poole said. “He moves pretty good for a big guy and has a pretty good shot from the point. He brings something a little bit different.”
The Oilers general manager said he didn’t want to speculate as to exactly where Sutton fits on a blueline depth chart that is expected to welcome back Jordan Swenson to the ice from a serious leg laceration in the next couple weeks.
“This week he’s finally put on skates for the first time,” Poole said of Swenson. “He was in a tracksuit and just gliding around and very lightly working on his stride. We’re hopeful that maybe at the end of the month we might get him back into game action.”