Andrej Sustr has had one heck of a week.
Last week, the 6-foot-8 defenseman was skating on behalf of the University of Nebraska-Omaha in the WCHA Playoffs against rival Minnesota State.
But on Monday, the newest free-agent signee of the Tampa Bay Lightning was in downtown Tampa, skating at the Tampa Bay Times Forum and working on some shooting and stick-handling drills alongside Lightning strength and conditioning coach Mark Lambert.
It’s all a result of a contract that Sustr agreed to five days ago, when he signed on to join the Lightning for two years on an entry-level deal.
Not bad for the highly sought-after collegiate prospect who chose to come to Tampa Bay over approximately 20 other NHL clubs who were in pursuit of his services.
“It’s been chaotic,” Sustr said. “But at the same time, I’m glad to be here, I’m enjoying it and I’m ready to work.”
Sustr is expected to join the team in the near future, and when he does, he won’t be exactly out of place in the locker room.
Part of that has to do with his stature, standing at 6-foot-8, 225-pounds, but more so it’s because Sustr is familiar with several of the Lightning’s current players, as well as members of the coaching staff as a result of participating in Tampa Bay’s Development Camp this past summer.
That same familiarity, Sustr said, factored in to his decision to sign with the Lightning rather than a large number of other clubs.
“I was able to meet a lot of great people and I really was impressed with the atmosphere,” Sustr added. “It was nice to get in touch with a few pro franchises, and when they contacted me I just remembered how I enjoyed being in camp with the guys and how they treated me, so I felt like they would take good care of me.”
The defenseman who had nine goals and 25 points to go along with 53 penalty minutes had another purpose in mind, too.
“I wanted to get some practice and get familiar with the team and watch just the speed and the style of the NHL,” Sustr said. “It will be a lot different coming from college.”
Sustr said it is his goal to evolve into a strong puck-moving defenseman, but also one that remains reliable in his own end when not joining the rush.
For that, it will take time, but for Sustr, the learning curve is “all part of the process” to make it to the NHL, and one that he is looking forward to undertaking sooner rather than later.
“Right now it’s all a bit overwhelming, just coming in and seeing the arena,” he said. “But it’s all amazing and it’s pretty surreal, but once I settle in I’ll be able to focus more and get going.”
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