Between Hockey Canada’s 17-and-under camp and the Quebec Remparts’ training camp, Jesse Sutton has been away from home for the better part of a month.
Following a conversation with Remparts head coach and general manager Phillipe Boucher Sunday in Quebec City, the 16-year-old from Mount Pearl will have to get comfortable being away from home a lot longer having earned himself a roster spot on the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League squad for the upcoming season.
The news came just a couple of days after Sutton scored and assisted on another goal in his only pre-season game, a 5-3 loss to the Rimouski Oceanic.
It makes Sutton, picked 50th overall in the third round, one of three Newfoundlanders on roster of the Remparts, who will host the 2015 Memorial Cup tournament. He joins St. John’s native Kurt Etchegary, who will captain the team in his overage year, and St. John’s defenceman Cody Donaghey, a longtime friend.
A fourth Newfoundlander, Lewisporte’s Lucas Batt, was cut along with four other players on Monday.
“It was definitely a relief when I scored,” says Sutton, a centre who led the St. John’s major midget Privateers in scoring last season with 20 goals and 32 points in 24 games.
“I got to play with Kurt (Etchegary) in that game and (Boucher) said we had some Newfoundland chemistry out there.”
Coming from major midget, Sutton quickly learned that while the skill level in major junior isn’t overly hard to adapt to, the pace and size of the game takes some getting used to.
“Everyone’s so much bigger, stronger and faster. You can definitely tell the difference when you go into the corners. You’ve got to be ready.”
Sutton spent the first month of the summer working out with personal trainer Bob Thompson, popular among local pros such as Ryane Clowe and Teddy Purcell, before heading off to train under Doug Shepherd at the Charlottetown, P.E.I.-based Andrew Hockey Growth Programs.
“I’m about six foot and I’d say I’ve put on about seven or eight pounds this summer, so I’m up to about 185.”
Sutton was put in touch with Shepherd through a strong relationship he’s built with Winnipeg Jets’ assistant general manager and St. John’s IceCaps GM Craig Heisinger. The two became friends when Sutton visited Winnipeg to see Kilbride’s Luke Adam play for the Buffalo Sabres against the Winnipeg Jets.
“Ever since then, we’ve been talking and become really close, especially with the IceCaps being in St. John’s,” says Sutton.
“He’s always there for me. Not necessarily with hockey, but when it comes to advice in every day life. He’s been nothing but great to me and my mom.”
Sutton is the son of Clarence Sutton, a teacher and well-liked basketball coach lost a courageous fight to brain cancer in the fall of 2009. He was only 46.
Clarence Sutton was known as a basketball guy, but he was also a big hockey fan — a loyal supporter of the Montreal Canadiens — and encouraged his son to play and taught him “the little things” about being a hockey player.
Sutton says being drafted “was a really proud day for me and my mom. I knew he was there and my mom even said that while we were watching (the draft), that he was right there with us.”
In the coming months, Sutton should find out whether or not his rookie season will include his playing for one of three Canadian teams at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge Nov. 2-8 in Sarnia, Ont.
Sutton was one of more than 100 players invited to the camp — along with fellow Newfoundlanders St. John’s goaltender Evan Fitzpatrick and Gander’s Jordan Maher — in search of one of the 66 spots up for grabs. Given the message from the coaching staff, Sutton is confident he has a good chance to make one of the three teams.
“They told us they’re not exactly looking for the best players, they’re looking for the right ones,” Sutton says, adding the coaches feel the Canadian men’s team which won Olympic gold in Sochi provides a good blueprint for what they’re trying to build.
“They didn’t score all these goals, but they were dominating teams mentally and physically and shutting them down.”
Sutton should have no problem communicating with francophone teammates or fans in Quebec City: He’s fluent in French having been enrolled in French immersion since kindergarten.
“I’ve been working on it up here a bit,” he says, while pointing out the majority of in the people in the Remparts’ organization are bilingual.
Adam Holwell was omitted from a list of Newfoundland and Labrador players attending QMJHL training camps which appeared in Saturday’s Weekend Telegram as a result of his birthplace being listed as Mississauga, Ont., on the league’s website. Holwell did play midget hockey in Mississauga, but is from St. John’s ... Besides Batt, a number of other players from this province have been cut from QMJHL training camps. They include Liam Hynes, Ferryland (Acadie-Bathurst Titan), Jordan Kennedy, Labrador City (Acadie-Bathurst); Curtis Scales, St. John’s (Charlottetown Islanders); Nathan Yetman, St. John’s (Charlottetown), Brady Griffin-Hefford, C.B.S. (Charlottetown) and Lee Dower, St. John’s (Cape Breton Screaming Eagles).