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Canadiens’ Nick Suzuki is a game-changing talent not seen by fans in a generation - Sportsnet.ca

Dec 09, 2022 8:50AM

Montreal Canadiens’ Nick Suzuki scores against Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart during shootout NHL hockey action in Montreal, Saturday, November 19, 2022. (Graham Hughes/CP)

| November 20, 2022, 1:25 PM

November 20, 2022, 1:25 PM

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But Suzuki, whose star has been rising ever since he was drafted 13th overall by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017, has reached a new level. His star is now shooting, making him dynamic enough to ritually execute these plays at this level.

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“Deception is a big part of the game, and Suzy has a lot of deception coming down that wall,” Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis said to reporters after the game. “If you look at his shootout move, there’s a lot of deception in his shootout move.

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“(But) when he comes down the wall on the right side (like he did at the end of regulation), he shoots some of those … He sells the shot and he moves it, but sometimes he sells the shot and shoots it. It’s unpredictable sometimes for the opponent, and that’s hard.”

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Suzuki’s ability to make things hard on his opponents has become appointment viewing. Especially for Canadiens fans, since so many of them have never seen a centre of his ability play for their team.

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Heck, the last forward that came close to bringing them out of their seats as much was Alex Kovalev, and though Kovalev was the last one to produce more than a point per game in a Canadiens uniform over a season (84 points in 2007-08), not even he did what Suzuki’s doing right now.

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Suzuki currently ranks 10th in the NHL in points and has a real chance of becoming the first Canadiens player to finish that high since Mats Naslund in 1986.

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Even if Suzuki doesn’t, he’s putting on a show every night in his first season after being named the youngest captain in team history. He’s giving an entire segment of Canadiens fans something they’ve wanted since they began watching this team.

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MONTREAL — There’s an entire generation of Canadiens fans who have never seen a player like Nick Suzuki on their team until now.

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They’ve been begging for a superstar like him for decades — a bona fide top centre who can take over a game and come as close as hockey allows a player to win one on his own — and now they have him locked into an eight-year deal with a $7.87-million annual salary that will prove to be an incredible bargain if he continues doing what he’s been doing since this season started.

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What Suzuki did in his 25 minutes of ice-time on Saturday night — posting two assists (for his seventh multi-point performance in his last 10 games) and a goal in the shootout — was one thing. How he did it is what makes him the most exciting centre the Canadiens have had since wireless internet became widely available.

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Take a look at the video below, but don’t just watch the start of it. It first shows the brilliant play Suzuki made to set Mike Matheson up with a goal in his Canadiens debut, but it’s worth continuing to the 25-second mark so you can get a glimpse of the genesis of that play.

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That’s when Suzuki, who’s in front of the Flyers’ net, reads that linemate Kirby Dach is about to win his battle for the puck and rim it back down low on the cycle. As Suzuki is in the process of beating his man to the puck, his angling enables him to see Cole Caufield in his periphery, and he takes no time to decide what he’s going to do next.

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The 23-year-old shifts from picking up the puck on his forehand and continuing the cycle towards Dach, to reversing, scooping it up with his backhand and, in one motion, snapping a perfect, tape-to-tape pass through Travis Sanheim’s skates and onto Caufield’s stick for a scoring chance the 21-year-old typically buries with his eyes closed.

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Caufield made a good move and missed, but then he forced a turnover from the Flyers, eventually leading to an even nicer pass from Suzuki to Matheson and a goal that absolutely needed to be scored to give the Suzuki and Caufield a chance to connect on a much more dramatic one later in the game.

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Without Caufield’s elite shooting ability, the goal to make it 4-4 with three seconds remaining in regulation can’t happen.

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But it definitely doesn’t happen if Suzuki — who has 11 goals and 12 assists in 18 games and is on pace to produce 105 points this season — has not proven to be nearly as lethal a shooting threat as he is a passing threat. If he doesn’t shoot earlier in the sequence and then force the Flyers to respect his shot again by making it seem like he’s uncorking it before firing this bullet pass over to Caufield to one-time, this game ends as a loss for Montreal in regulation.

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But Suzuki, whose star has been rising ever since he was drafted 13th overall by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017, has reached a new level. His star is now shooting, making him dynamic enough to ritually execute these plays at this level.

\n\n\n\n

“Deception is a big part of the game, and Suzy has a lot of deception coming down that wall,” Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis said to reporters after the game. “If you look at his shootout move, there’s a lot of deception in his shootout move.

\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n

“(But) when he comes down the wall on the right side (like he did at the end of regulation), he shoots some of those … He sells the shot and he moves it, but sometimes he sells the shot and shoots it. It’s unpredictable sometimes for the opponent, and that’s hard.”

\n\n\n\n

Suzuki’s ability to make things hard on his opponents has become appointment viewing. Especially for Canadiens fans, since so many of them have never seen a centre of his ability play for their team.

\n\n\n\n

Heck, the last forward that came close to bringing them out of their seats as much was Alex Kovalev, and though Kovalev was the last one to produce more than a point per game in a Canadiens uniform over a season (84 points in 2007-08), not even he did what Suzuki’s doing right now.

\n\n\n\n

Suzuki currently ranks 10th in the NHL in points and has a real chance of becoming the first Canadiens player to finish that high since Mats Naslund in 1986.

\n\n\n\n

Even if Suzuki doesn’t, he’s putting on a show every night in his first season after being named the youngest captain in team history. He’s giving an entire segment of Canadiens fans something they’ve wanted since they began watching this team.

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Paul Gregory

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