Prospect of Interest: Nick Suzuki adds exciting talent to Canadiens

NHL insider John Shannon says losing Pacioretty is challenging, but Montreal helped their team right now, got younger and faster with Nick Suzuki, a controllable goal-scorer like Tomas Tatar and a 2nd round pick in next year’s draft.

Nick Suzuki is a talented and high-scoring centre who’s lauded for his hockey intellect.

In his 2016-17 draft season, Suzuki scored 45 goals and 96 points in 65 games for the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack, which led to him being selected 13th overall by the Vegas Golden Knights. Then last season he scored 42 times and registered 100 points in 64 games, showing his potential to excel on the offensive side of the puck at the next level.

The Montreal Canadiens acquired Suzuki on Sept. 10 in a trade that sent their captain Max Pacioretty to Vegas. Now, Suzuki will be counted on to reach his potential for a Montreal team going through a reconstruction process.

Here’s what you need to know about the 19-year-old Suzuki.

Age: 19
From: London, Ont.
Current Team: Owen Sound Attack, OHL
Position: Centre
Shoots: Right
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 183 pounds
Twitter account: @nsuzuki_37

Canadiens add another young centre to the mix

It wasn’t that long ago the Canadiens were struggling to find centres, and while they still could be challenged at the position this season, they have a couple exciting ones now in the system.

Suzuki led Owen Sound, the OHL’s fourth-highest scoring team, in scoring last season by a whopping 31-point margin. This kid is just naturally talented and has the hockey IQ to fit anywhere in the lineup. He just finished playing for Vegas at its rookie camp this weekend, where he was used both on the wing and down the middle.[sidebar]

“Wherever they want to play me, I’m going to do my best there,” Suzuki told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “I think it’s good to be able to play all three positions up front. It shows versatility. That’s a big part of my game.”

Suzuki recorded 282 shots on goal last season, the third-highest mark in the OHL, so he isn’t shy to let it fly. But while Suzuki has topped 40 goals in each of his past two OHL seasons, some say vision and playmaking may be his best attributes.

A top-five OHL point-getter two years going, he has 109 assists in 129 regular season games, and is nearly an assist-per-game player in the playoffs. In the 2017-18 OHL year-end coaches poll, Suzuki finished third in the Western Conference’s “Best Playmaker” category.

“We can talk about his goals, but Nick Suzuki passes the puck like no one in this league,” Attack GM Dale DeGray told the London Free Press.

Either way, since he was picked 14th overall by Owen Sound in the OHL Draft, Suzuki has emerged as an all-around player.

“Suzuki was the key piece because we like a young prospect that was picked 13th overall, which I believe at the time we had at 11 on our list,” Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin said after the trade.

Lady Byng-like

Suzuki has been the recipient of the William Hanley Trophy the past two seasons, which is given to the OHL’s most sportsmanlike player.

Along with two years of elite offensive totals, Suzuki has a combined 28 penalty minutes as a top-line player.

“He’s an elite player in an amazing league that has the respect of not only his teammates, but his peers,” DeGray said in a press release. “From the moment he joined the Attack, Nick has approached and played the game the right way and there is no more deserving player for this award than him.”

Other notable winners of the William Hanley Trophy include Wayne Gretzky (1977-78), Kirk Muller (1982-83), Brian Campbell (1998-99) and Connor McDavid (Erie 2013-14).

Smart and skilled

In the 2016-17 Coaches Poll, Suzuki was voted second in his conference’s Smartest Player category.

As a 19-year-old, Suzuki could either push for a roster spot with the Canadiens this season, or return to Owen Sound and try to become the franchise’s all-time points leader. He is currently 91 points away from breaking Bobby Ryan’s team record.

But rather than model his game as an all-offence player, Suzuki says he takes notes on how Patrice Bergeron plays. Ryan McGill coached Suzuki for one season in Owen Sound before he was hired as an assistant coach by the Golden Knights and says two-way centre Mikael Backlund could be a good comparable for the type of game Suzuki tries to play.

“I think he’ll be a second-line centre in the NHL one day,” McGill told ahead of the 2017 NHL Draft. “He kind of models his game after Patrice Bergeron, but Bergeron has been in the NHL a long time. A better comparison might be Calgary Flames centre Mikael Backlund. It took Backlund a few years to become a real solid player; I think [Suzuki] has the potential to be better than Backlund.”

Look for him at the WJC

Many were surprised to see Suzuki cut from Canada’s WJC squad last season, but if he goes back to junior there’s a good bet he’ll be part of this year’s outfit.

He was part of the World Junior Showcase this summer, and scored a goal against the Americans.

Hockey skill runs in the family

As high-upside as Nick is, his younger brother could end up being picked earlier than 13th overall in the 2019 NHL Draft.

Ryan Suzuki was the first overall pick in the 2017 OHL Draft and scored 44 points in 64 games as a rookie.

Should the Habs fall short of the playoffs again this season, there’s a chance the Suzuki brothers could both be wearing bleu, blanc et rouge.


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