The Montreal Canadiens are going to have tough choices to make when they form their roster for opening night. Not only does Montreal have prospects like Jake Evans and Ryan Poehling looking to make the roster, but they also spent the summer adding depth guys like Nick Cousins and Nate Thompson. One name that should undeniably be on the Canadiens roster on opening night is Nick Suzuki. The Canadiens acquired Suzuki in last year’s blockbuster trade that sent Max Pacioretty to the Vegas Golden Knights. He spent this off-season steadily impressing the Montreal front office and has earned an NHL birth. The 20-year-old Suzuki was drafted 14th overall by the Golden Knights in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
Nick Suzuki Has a Case for the Opening Night Roster
Montreal is Getting Younger
Montreal has made it clear that they want to get a look at a few of their younger players. About a month ago, when the Habs were looking at bringing back veteran defenceman Andrei Markov, Marc Bergevin made it clear that he wanted to give his younger players a chance. Bergevin shut down those rumours in an interview with Marc Denis of TSN, emphasizing his hope to give younger players a chance at making the NHL. While Bergevin was saying this in regards to defencemen, there’s no doubt it applies to forwards as well.
Last year, Montreal allowed Jesperi Kotkaniemi to start the season on the NHL roster. This allowed Kotkaniemi a chance to make the transition straight to the NHL after spending a year in the top professional league in Finland. He ultimately rewarded the Canadiens with a terrific, 34-point rookie season. With Suzuki spending the last four years in the OHL there is no question he can do the same.
Where Nick Suzuki Fits in The Canadiens Line-Up
When looking at how the Canadiens roster is shaping up, it seems Suzuki could fit perfectly among their top-six. Over the course of the pre-season, head coach Claude Julien has put Suzuki on the top lines, where he’s shown that he can produce. In four pre-season games so far Suzuki has three assists.
With Montreal having solid depth up the middle, the Habs are hoping that Suzuki can succeed on the wing. The transition to the wing has proved to be an easy one for Suzuki through four pre-season games so far, much to the surprise of Julien and Bergevin. Hopefully, Suzuki continues to produce on the wing heading into the regular season to continue to make his case for the opening night roster.
What Happens If He Doesn’t Make The Opening Night Roster
If Suzuki is unable to crack the opening night lineup, he’ll surely be a star in the Canadiens AHL system. Sending Suzuki to the Laval Rockets would allow the 20-year-old winger to receive top-line minutes which will only bolster his growth. If he starts the year in Laval, there is no question that Suzuki will be called up at one point during the regular season.
Last season, between the Owen Sound Attack and Guelph Storm, Suzuki recorded 34 goals and 60 assists for 94 points in 59 OHL games. He led Guelph to a Memorial Cup, putting up 16 goals and 26 assists for 42 points in 24 games during the playoffs. He added three goals and four assists during the Memorial Cup. Suzuki led the OHL in points and assists in the playoffs. He was named the MVP of the playoffs as well.
Nick Suzuki starting the year in Montreal would be beneficial to both sides. He brings youth to Montreal and can help boost the team’s offence. There’s little risk as well, as sending Suzuki to the AHL is always an option. With his terrific pre-season, there seems to be little doubting Suzuki’s spot on the 2019-20 Montreal Canadiens opening-night roster.