VANCOUVER– Nick Suzuki has every reason to be smiling ear to ear. Team Canada is currently undefeated at the World Junior Hockey Championship. The young forward was recently traded from the Vegas Golden Knights to the illustrious Montreal Canadiens franchise. But most importantly, Suzuki gets to live out a childhood dream of playing at the World Juniors over the holidays.
“I’ve been dreaming of playing in a World Junior tournament my whole life,” stated Suzuki. “The New Years Eve game against Russia is going to be huge. We want where we want to be, in a position to win the group so we have an easier path to the gold medal.”
Suzuki’s Playmaking Abilities Make Him a Force on Ice
Nick Suzuki has not played a single game in the NHL. But what he offers to the teams he has played for will make him an asset when he reaches the professional level. The captain of the Owen Sound Attack, Suzuki currently has 20 goals, 23 assists in 28 games. Prior to the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the playmaking forward put up 96 points (45 goals, 51 assists) and generated a season-high 100 points (42 goals, 58 assists) in the 2017-2018 season.
It is not a surprise why the Vegas Golden Knights selected Suzuki 13th overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. As Owen Sound Attack head coach Todd Gill stated, “He’s got that offensive flair where he can be a No. 1 power play guy for you. I think he can play center at the NHL level. He’s got the speed, the skill, and the vision.”
When Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin sent Max Pacioretty to the Vegas Golden Knights, the focal point of that deal was getting Nick Suzuki. It is clear that the Canadiens organization believes that once the young prospect gets to the NHL, he will make an instant impact on a young team.
“To hear Marc Bergevin say I was a centrepiece of the trade was pretty cool,” says Suzuki. “It gives you a lot of confidence. You know you are going to a place they want you pretty bad. I’m really excited to be there now. I want to prove the Canadiens right for wanting me.”
Suzuki Not Finished Producing at World Juniors
Through the first three games of the World Juniors, Suzuki has played on the second line with Jaret Anderson-Dolan. The two have played alongside 17-year-old phenom Alexis LaFreniere as well as Colorado Avalanche prospect Shane Bowers. Whenever Suzuki is on the ice, his ability to use his speed to create scoring opportunities is second to none.
“We work really well and we have solid chemistry,” said Suzuki. “We are at our best when we are working the cycle and maintaining a strong forecheck.”
“Nick is a versatile player,” said coach Tim Hunter. “He has a lot of skill, a lot more skill than you realize. We’re happy about that and we’re happy about his flexibility and his willingness to embrace that flexibility by playing right wing or center.”
For many of the juniors playing on Team Canada, they have vivid memories of watching current NHL superstars play at this tournament. For Nick Suzuki, it was Sidney Crosby and Patrice Bergeron‘s success at the World Juniors that served as an inspiration for him to wear the red and white one day.
“It was pretty cool to have Sid call in. To have a guy with the reputation of Crosby call us and express his best wishes was very special. It gave all the boys chills,” said Suzuki.
The toughest portion of the World Juniors is about to commence. With Canada set to play Russia on New Year’s Eve, it gives the young Canadians an opportunity to showcase how they can respond to the pressure of expectations. The rivalry of Canada and Russia goes back generations and will once again resume in front of a raucous Rogers Arena crowd.
Suzuki has not scored a goal yet this tournament. He has generated a plethora of quality scoring opportunities, but none have gone into the back of the net. One reality is certain, there is still more that Nick Suzuki has to prove in this tournament.
“We have been generating a lot of offence and scoring opportunities. It will come to me eventually so I just got to stick to the game plan and get better every day,” affirmed Suzuki.