At 6’7", it’ll be a toss up between defenseman Andrej Sustr, #14 on the RawCharge.com Top 25 Under 25, and goalie Ben Bishop for who would get first picked for the pickup basketball game at the Tampa Bay Lightning company picnic. This tower of a defenseman from Plzen, Czech Republic has height to spare and a wingspan to match. An undrafted college free agent, Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman convinced Sustr to sign in the spring of 2012 after finishing his junior year with University of Nebraska-Omaha. He played two games with the Lightning, burning the first year of his entry level contract and giving him essentially a signing bonus for the time he was with the big club before finishing the year with Syracuse. He has played in 117 NHL games, recording 1 goal and 20 assists, plus 1 goal and 1 assist in 29 playoff games.
Here’s how the panel ranked him.
|Kyle Alexander||John Fontana||Mike Gallimore||GeoFitz4||Brett Frieman|
Previous Ranks: #13 (2013), #11 (2014)
Sustr has often been the target of angry fans on social media. Some of it is justified, but some of it is certainly overblown. It’s easy to look at him and see a Zdeno Chara clone; a hulking, giant of a defenseman that is tough and physical and hard to play against. It’s also easy to look at Victor Hedman and see an incredible skater that jumps into the play and leads the rush while being defensively responsible. Unfortunately, Sustr isn’t either one of those players. He’s a bottom pair defenseman that when paired with a solid partner can be a reliable blueliner. Unfortunately, towards the end of the season and through the playoffs he was partnered with Matt Carle. For whatever reason, they did not seem to click very well and were often out of sync allowing bad chances with a 37.5% goals for percentage at 5 on 5 during the regular season.
His most common partner through the season was Jason Garrison. When they were together at even strength, they had a 60.9% Goals For Percentage and a 52.6% Corsi For Percentage. They were protected though, taking over half of their faceoff draws together in the offensive zone. This is to be expected though with a third pairing.
While billed as a two-way defenseman, Sustr is not much of an offensive force. He is not a particularly good passer or puck handler and a lot of the assists he has been credited with have been secondary assists. He has only scored two goals in his career, one during the regular season and one in the playoffs. When he has confidence, like he did for a short time during the Detroit series, he can be a very effective defenseman. After scoring the below goal against Detroit, he had a stretch of games where he played extremely well.
The key to Sustr’s success is putting him with a partner that he doesn’t have to carry the defensive load for like he did with Carle and keep him protected and playing third pairing minutes. He’ll probably never break 20 points in a season, but he can provide solid defense, penalty killing minutes, and a handful of assists from the bottom pairing. He is only a third of the way to the 300 games mark for defensemen to really develop. It’s too early to call him a bust, especially seeing that he was a college signing and a right handed defenseman with size. He is still developing and will continue to make mistakes. It is important for fans, like the organization, to be patient with him as he comes into his own in the NHL.