Chosen nephew

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:14 AM ET

NASHVILLE -- The rave reviews for Calgary Flames rookie blueliner Dion Phaneuf are well deserved.

Down in the land of the Grand Ole Opry, Nashville Predators freshman defenceman is holding his own, too.

Ryan Suter, chosen two spots before Phaneuf in the 2003 draft, may not be generating the same hoopla in Nashville as Phaneuf is in Calgary but teammate Jamie Allison believes Suter is on track for NHL success.

"You can tell he's going to be a good player for a long time," said Allison, the former Flame.

The race for the Calder Trophy is between Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, with Phaneuf drawing enough interest to likely finish third.

Meanwhile, Suter -- the 20-year-old nephew of former Flames standout defenceman Gary Suter -- is quietly going about his business, having springboarded from the University of Wisconsin, to the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals to the Predators since being chosen seventh at the NHL draft held in Nashville.

He has gone about it quietly, a trait he shares with his uncle.

"I don't really like that much attention," Suter said after yesterday's morning skate. "I'll try to stay under the radar and hopefully surprise a few people."

Not many should be caught off guard.

Blessed with a good blend of size and skill, the smooth-skating, 6-ft. 1-in., 200-lb. Suter has all the tools to be a top-flight defenceman.

No wonder he has earned comparisons to his uncle, who sits fourth on the Flames franchise's all-time scoring list.

"I know how good of a player he was, how good a person he is and how hard he worked, so that doesn't bother me at all. I'd rather be compared to him than some slug," he said.

"I wouldn't mind playing like him."

It's a real possibility.

He's already earning more than 17 minutes of ice time per game, suggesting Predators head coach Barry Trotz likes what he has seen.

"The great thing about him is he adjusts his game, he figures it out," Trotz said.

"He learns what works, doesn't try to pull his college game to the NHL, he reacts to the NHL.

"He goes through the minefield of the NHL and feels it out and has been making pretty good decisions."

The only possible knock on Suter is the offensive production.

In 22 games, including last night's 2-0 win over the Flames, Suter has registered only five assists -- well back of the production generated by fellow rookie blueliners Phaneuf (five goals and nine assists) and Chicago's Brent Seabrook (three goals and 10 assists).

Trotz, however, isn't becoming impatient, especially since the Predators have Kimmo Timonen and Marek Zidlicky running the points on the powerplay.

"I don't think he's going to have 80-point seasons but he'll be a solid guy, similar to his uncle," Trotz said.

"He's going to get some decent offensive numbers but I'm not looking for that from him, right now."

Suter is willing to wait for the breakthrough.

"I think it's a process," he said.

"I'm definitely frustrated inside but I can't get too worked up and worry about it."


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