Welcome back to Hockey Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2017 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. Today we look at Nick Suzuki.
Nick Suzuki had his coming out party at this summer’s Ivan Hlinka tournament, where he put up three points in four games for team Canada. He followed that up by taking the next step in his OHL career. Suzuki has been great for Owen Sound with 45 goals and 96 points in 65 games this year. He has also produced in the playoffs with four goals and 11 points in eight games as the Attack are currently involved in a series with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Last season Suzuki was part of Team Canada White, winning the 2015-16 Under 17 World Hockey Challenge.
His younger brother Ryan Suzuki appears to be following a similar path, as he was the first overall pick in the 2017 OHL Priority Draft, heading to the Barrie Colts next year.
With an August 10th birthdate, Suzuki is one of the youngest players we have ranked as a first round prospect.
Nick Suzuki Scouting Report: 2017 NHL Draft #14
Center/Right Wing — shoots Right
Born Aug 10 1999 — London, Ontario
Height 5’11” — Weight 183 lbs [180 cm / 83 kg]
Suzuki is a good but not great skater. He has a quick first step and good acceleration, but can improve his stride and have better top end speed. He uses that acceleration and first step to chase down loose pucks, and gets in quickly on the forecheck, throwing hits or pressuring defenders into turnovers. Once he gets the puck, he uses his agility and edge work to create space and open up passing lanes.
He also has good stick handling skills and can beat defencemen one-on-one with quick cuts, and changes of pace and and going to the net. Suzuki could stand to be a little stronger, to improve his balance, and protect the puck better in the cycle as well as battle along the boards at higher levels. He does very well in these areas in junior hockey, but he should add muscle before he heads to the next level.
Suzuki is extremely intelligent as a hockey player. He thinks the game very well, spotting openings that other players do not see, and seems to be a step ahead of where the puck is going. When he has the puck, he makes smart plays, and when he does not, he finds openings to get the puck and create a scoring chance. Suzuki has excellent vision and is a very good play maker. He can feather tape-to-tape passes through tight openings, and can put his linemates in a great position to finish his passes.
Also impressive as a goal scorer, Suzuki has quick hands and drives the net, where he can finish plays in tight. He’s also quick to pounce on rebounds, and has the hand-eye co-ordination to deflect point shots. Suzuki is strong enough to battle for position in front of the net, and slippery enough to avoid a defender and find a soft spot in a good scoring area. From further out, Suzuki has a good wrist and snap shot. His release is very quick, and can be deceptive for goaltenders. Suzuki is effective on the give and go plays, passing to a teammate and then finding open space for a return pass.
Suzuki has excellent work ethic that serves him in all three zones. He brings the same relentless approach to battling for pucks in the neutral zone and the defensive zone, that he shows on the forecheck. He has good positioning, and when he is able to create a turnover, Suzuki is quick to transition to offence and create a scoring chance. His face-off skills are also advanced for a young player.
Projection and Comparison
The biggest concern with Suzuki is his slightly smaller size. He plays a rugged game for that size, and so adding muscle to his frame will be important in the coming years. Suzuki has the potential to be a top six centre in the NHL. The fact that he has improved so much in the past year, along with being one of the younger players in the draft suggests a possibility that the ceiling may be even higher. Refining his overall stride and improving top speed should be a priority. In terms of a comparison, stylistically Suzuki reminds me of Robby Fabbri of the St. Louis Blues, though this is strictly a style comparison and not one based on talent.
The following is a compilation of highlights of Nick Suzuki, assembled from Youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the #15 Prospect on our board.