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Pius Suter signing continues Blackhawks’ fruitful European pipeline

The Hawks expect Suter — the top scorer in Switzerland this past season — to “be an NHL player for us next year,” per Stan Bowman.

General manager Stan Bowman talked about the Blackhawks’ latest signing, Swiss forward Pius Suter, on Tuesday.
AP Photos

In the last two summers alone, the Blackhawks have poached five of the more NHL-ready stars in the various European hockey leagues.

Last year, it was the Czech Republic’s Dominik Kubalik and Sweden’s Anton Wedin and Philip Holm. Two were busts in North America, but the other turned into a Calder Trophy finalist.

This year, it’s the Czech Republic’s Matej Chalupa and Switzerland’s Pius Suter.

Chalupa is considered more of a project and likely will start the 2020-21 season in the AHL. But Suter, whose sweepstakes the Hawks just won last Thursday, is expected to be in the Hawks’ lineup as soon as his contract goes into effect this fall.

“We think he’s going to be an NHL player for us next year,” general manager Stan Bowman said Tuesday. “We expect him to be on our team.”

Suter, like Kubalik, was the Swiss league’s leading scorer this past season with Zurich SC, and Bowman was quick to point out that he actually scored more goals than Kubalik.

The two young forwards don’t play the exact same style, but they share some common traits — quick hands, strong shots, magnetism toward high-threat areas — that generally translate well to the smaller rinks of the NHL.

“[Suter is] a very intelligent player, plays a good two-way game, very good around the net,” coach Jeremy Colliton said.

It’ll be fascinating to see how much of an impact Suter makes upon his arrival, but for now, the most interesting aspect of his signing is the continuation of the Hawks’ robust European pipeline.

As an organization, the Hawks are overflowing with European league connections.

Current assistant coach Marc Crawford coached Zurich from 2012 to 2016 and jump-started Suter’s career with the team in 2015-16, his rookie season. Suter’s agent, Georges Muller, said last week the Crawford connection was a big part of Suter’s decision.

Bowman on Tuesday noted the European connections maintained by Ryan Stewart, the Hawks’ newly promoted assistant GM of pro scouting, and Mats Hallin, the Hawks’ director of European scouting, as another contributing factor.

“I’ve got to give them credit,’’ Bowman said. ‘‘They do a great job, not only identifying the players but spending a lot of time with them.

“The second part [is] your track record does matter. We’ve shown a willingness to give these players a good opportunity and not just put them on the team, but put them in positions where they’re going to have a chance to do well.”