Nick Suzuki (Photo by Joel Lemay / Photo Agence QMI)

by Mike Ries, Staff Writer, AHL Report

With the 13th overall pick of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the Vegas Golden Knights selected dynamic centre Nick Suzuki. And with the acquisition of Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty, Vegas sent Suzuki to Montreal as part of a package that included forward Tomas Tatar and a 2019 second round pick.

As I followed his career from the London Jr. Knights to the Owen Sound Attack of the OHL, I felt strongly that he would be a top-10 pick in the NHL draft. Suzuki was ranked 18th by Hockey Prospect in his draft year known for his high skill level but also for being prone to disappearing from game to game. He was a one of the tougher prospects to project but many scouts felt he was destined to be a top line forward in the NHL.

(Photo by Amy Johnson | © Rocket Sports Media) Mandatory Credit Required

Offensively creative, Suzuki was generally regarded as the top possession forward in the draft with huge upside. But more than a playmaker, Nick was a goal scorer who liked to shoot the puck. His skating is below average for the NHL and he can struggle against bigger, stronger players. 

Entering the OHL as a 16-year-old Suzuki took small steps as a third-line centre but was productive potting 20 goals, 38 points in 63 games for Owen Sound. Nick came into his own in his second year for the Attack netting 96 points, including 45 goals and was a plus-51. Suzuki continued his dominance in the OHL playoffs that same season with 23 points in 17 games.  Last season, he matched the production with 42 goals, 58 assists for 100 points.

At 5-foot-11-inches and 183 pounds, Suzuki still has to mature and will certainly need to add muscle to his frame. He processes the game at a high tempo but will need time to adjust to the pro game and playing against bigger bodies.

“[Canadiens management] want to see how I do with NHL players,” said Suzuki following Sunday’s annual Red vs. White game at the Bell Centre. Suzuki centred a line with Paul Byron and Nikita Scherbak.

“I think we have a lot of speed,” Suzuki told the Montreal Gazette. “I think there’s a lot of skill out there, too. Obviously, Byron’s pretty fast and he hunts pucks really well. Scherby hunts pucks as well and I think he’s got an under-rated shot. I think we work pretty well together and just moving forward if we get the chance to play together I think it will be better.”

Suzuki told reporters that Canadiens management “want me to move forward as a centreman.” He added, “I’m just going to do everything that I can to be the best centre for them. I think I can play that position well and I just want to prove that I can play centre in the NHL.”

Along with 2018 first round pick Jesperi Kotkaniemi, the Habs have two top-flight centermen who may form a solid one-two punch of the future. With Max Domi being given a trial at centre to start Canadiens training camp, it has allowed Jonathan Drouin to return to his natural position as a winger. Drouin was one of the standouts of Sunday’s game.

It suddenly seems that Montreal has a solid talent pool that could reverse the outlook for the future. And Suzuki is definitely one of the players that you should keep your eye on for the next few seasons.