Nathan Sucese’s 2022-23 season began when Wolves general manager Wendell Young offered the 26-year-old forward a PTO (professional tryout contract) and ended with Sucese being one of the team’s most consistent players. Last month, Sucese signed an AHL contract to return to the Wolves for the ’23-24 season. In Part 1, Sucese discusses his decision to return to the Wolves, what motivates him, being a leader and much more.
What motivated you to return to the Wolves?
“Well, I think the opportunity that’s at stake for everyone being on the same playing field, being able to earn everything and not having ice time just given to people was a big factor.
You understand the other side of it as NHL teams want their guys they have invested in to play but having a new opportunity like this (being independent) that the league hasn’t seen in 20 years was super appetizing for a player like me. And I think now, after having a great year last year, that I’ve established myself as a very solid AHL hockey player.”
How would you describe last season for you personally?
“The best word would be ‘refreshing.’ I just went into it with an open mind. I bet on myself after talking to Wendell and he said he didn’t have a spot to offer me but could give me a PTO and I just took it and ran. And I was super fortunate of him giving me that opportunity.”
Last season, you said the PTO was motivating. Is it different now that you have a contract going into this season?
“I don’t think so because there’s always that next step that you can take in your development. I didn’t see much power-play time last year and my PK situations kind of dwindled once guys got healthy. Now with the level playing field there’s even more to earn and more fire to have under you.
You lived in a hotel during the 2022-23 season. With the new contract, are you looking forward to finding a permanent place to stay?
“I’m excited to finally move settle into an apartment and get it ready to go for my parents and my fiancee to come on the weekends for games and kind of make it home.
I’d like to have another great year and hopefully stick around for more years to come. That’s the goal.”
How will coming so close to the playoffs and ultimately missing by one point fuel the players?
“First of all, you’ve got to tip the cap to the 18 skaters plus two goalies that were on that run at the end of the season.
When we got healthy everyone kind of settled into their role and embraced it and just did their part. You could see when people do that, it gives you success.
But I have not played a single playoff game in my three years in the AHL—one being a Covid year—so it does give me a lot of motivation to get back to that spot that the Wolves were at. And I watched the whole 2023 Calder Cup playoffs here in Rochester (N.Y.), including the Coachella Valley-Hershey final series, and it gave me something to strive for, for sure.”
What were the largest strides in your game last season?
“I just got back to my style of making plays. And knowing if I make a mistake just don’t make it a bad one. The odds will be in your favor if you trust your skill and your ability and you’re not playing a little bit panicky.
Where do you need to improve the most?
“Utilizing my skill even more and getting to the front of the net. I think there’s still some untapped, offensive potential there and I can help contribute even more and earn more and more minutes.
I also want to keep earning the PK spot because it’s something I really enjoy and I took a lot of pride in being part of the unit that was in the Top 3 three in the league for most of the season.”
Do you envision being in a leadership role this season?
“I would absolutely love to and I’d be honored. Whether you’re wearing a letter or not there are ways to be a leader. Everyone’s got their different philosophies. There definitely are louder leaders and there are quieter leaders and you just have to find your healthy balance.
That would be something that I am going to strive for and be someone’s help if they need to bounce ideas off or even just need to talk about stuff off the ice or life situations. I’m definitely all eyes and ears if someone needs help.”
Are you a goal setter? Do you say, ‘I want this number of goals next season?’
“Personally, that’s never given me the most success. Obviously, you can tell when you’re in a slump or when you see that your points haven’t gone up and in seven or eight games.
But I don’t set out with a number like, ‘hey, I want 20 this year.’ That’s something that I haven’t had success with in the past so I kind of try and stay away from that. If you play the right way and you play all 200 feet, you’ll get rewarded—I’m a true believer in that.”
How long did you take off the ice and when did you get back into it full time?
“I took a little bit of time off in April and then I started working out three times a week in early May, and now I’m up to four times a week and on the ice three times a week.
Obviously, you do need time off after a season, but I’m not a guy who really likes to take too much more time than four weeks.”
Coming next week: Part 2.