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Nation Network 2017 Prospect Profile: #8 – Nick Suzuki

Coming in at #8 on our consensus ranking is Owen Sound Attack centre Nick Suzuki. Suzuki was one of the OHL’s most prolific players this season, finishing fifth in scoring and first among first-time draft-eligible players.

Despite scoring at a rate consistent with a top-five pick, Suzuki has been ranked in the late first round by a number of publications, making him a prime candidate to be the steal of the 2017 draft.

Bio:

  • Age: 17, 1999-08-10
  • Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
  • Position: C
  • Handedness: R
  • Height: 5’11″
  • Weight: 183 lbs
  • Draft Year Team: Owen Sound Attack (OHL)

Scouts:

Curtis Joe, Elite Prospects:

A smart offensive center that thinks the game at a fast pace and makes very good decisions on a consistent basis. Though he may not be the biggest player on the ice, Suzuki plays a thick, sturdy game and is hard to knock off the puck, especially when he has his feet moving. He’s an excellent skater that knows his own game well. Skilled with the puck and has a high level of hockey sense. This blend of talent and work ethic is hard to come by, invaluable in the long run.

Peter Harling, Dobber Prospects: 

March 2017 – Suzuki is an undersized dynamic offensive player who uses his speed and playmaking ability to impact the game. While slightly undersized he is not shy to play physically and go to the net or dig for pucks in the corner. Suzuki thinks the game fast and has the hands and feet to match which makes him a projectable NHL player. Suzuki has a motor that won’t quit on plays and he is a reliable back checker as well making him an effective two-way player. Suzuki made a strong impression as a rookie year scoring 20 goals for the Owen Sound Attack and had a strong showing to start his draft year at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament for Canada with a goal and three points in four games, this season his offensive totals have exploded with 45 goals and 95 points. Despite being a short player, he is strong on the puck, has speed and skill to burn and is a smart player, he will play in a top six role in the NHL when he is ready.

Future Considerations:

A no quit, full of energy centreman who adapts to new situations well and shows versatility…has impressive quickness in his feet and an enviable top speed…agile and shifty…deceptive with quick hands showing creativity and poise with the puck…has elite hockey IQ…able to slow the play down…possesses a surprisingly quick wrist shot that he uses to pick his targets…impressive playmaking ability and touch on his passes…great defensively and seems to constantly have the puck on his stick…has great body positioning and a solid frame to shield the puck, great with his stick in tight…pressures hard on the forecheck, consistently pressuring defensemen and keeping his feet moving leading to turnovers…gets back in a hurry on the backcheck…willingly gets himself into lanes and block opportunities…gets to the right positions to make a quick transition back to attack after the puck changes possession…he reads and adapts exceptionally well…just a potentially strong two-way contributor at the next level.

Stats:

Cohort pGPS

Our Take:

Nick Suzuki is the 2017 NHL Entry Draft’s most underrated player. Despite finishing at the top of nearly every offensive category in the OHL this season, Suzuki came in at number 20 in our most recent edition of consolidated rankings.

When try to account for the discrepancy between Suzuki’s point totals and where he’s been ranked by most scouting publications, the most obvious culprit is size. Suzuki stands at just 5’11”, which is below NHL average. While it would obviously be preferable if Suzuki were a couple of inches taller, his height should not in any way be a deal-breaker. There are hundreds of successful sub-six-foot players in the history of the NHL, so if Suzuki doesn’t become an everyday NHLer, height won’t be the reason.

In fact, it’s hard to find any reason why Nick Suzuki can’t be an everyday player someday. There just isn’t any area of his game that isn’t significantly better than the majority of his peers. Suzuki does all the little things well in the defensive zone- reading the play, boxing out defenders, transitioning the puck up the ice- but his real calling card is his offensive toolkit.

While there isn’t one element of his game that stands out, Suzuki is a very offensively versatile player. He may not have Owen Tippett’s shot, Gabriel Vilardi’s power, or Nico Hischier’s flash, but he’s capable of creating offense in so many different ways that he is always keeping defenders and goaltenders guessing – and often making them look silly. Off the rush, Suzuki is one of the most lethal and unpredictable players in the OHL, and if given time and space he will make opponents pay, either with his wrist shot, his ability to complete no-look passes, or by taking the puck directly to high-percentage areas.

I don’t like to make a habit of making character judgments of prospects, because I’ve never met or spoken with any of the players featured in this series, nor do I have access to anyone who has. Based on his on-ice demeanor, however, Suzuki strikes me as a player with a very good attitude. He never takes a shift off and never, ever, gives up on a play, especially in the offensive zone, which is responsible in part for his lofty point totals.

When viewed through the lens of pGPS, Suzuki looks like one of the safest bets in the draft. With an expected success percentage of 86.5% and an expected production of 58.3 points per season, he’s the definition of low-risk, high-reward. Some of Nick Suzuki’s most impressive statistical matches include Logan Couture, Jeff Skinner, Mike Richards, and Owen Nolan, but it should be noted that all of those players were slightly older than Suzuki in their draft year, and scored a slightly lower age-adjusted clip. From a purely statistical standpoint, Suzuki is actually further along in his development than any of those players were at 17. Another interesting player that Suzuki compares favourably to is Colorado Avalnche centre Matt Duchene, whose draft season was 87% similar to Suzuki’s but missed the age cut-off by a few months.

We have a favourite saying at Canucks Army: “Probability is not destiny.” No matter how thoroughly we study facts and figures, there are always outside factors that can derail a player’s career. That’s why it’s so important to watch the player, consider context, and study his attributes to get a sense of what he can be at the NHL level. But in Suzuki’s case, doing those things has only served to further cement my opinion of him.

Despite his diminutive stature and relatively low standing in the scouting community, Suzuki has a very high floor, and looks as close to a can’t-miss prospect as you”ll find in this year’s draft. Suzuki’s statistical profile suggests a player that has a very real chance of being a first-line centre at the height of his career, which is why we have him ranked higher than any of the major draft publications.

  • Goon

    I understand why people might be skeptical of a 5’8 / 160lbs player, but a player who stands 5’11 and is already over 180lbs at 17 shouldn’t have size issues at the NHL level. The best player in the world is 5’11.

    • But players like McDavid and Crosby are exceptions. Current elite centers like Malkin, Getzlaf, Scheifele, Johanson, Matthews, Thornton, Toews, Stamkos and Tavares are all over 6′ and most of more like 6′ 3″. Even up-and-comers like Eichel and Draisaitl are over 6′ and 200lbs.

      • truck

        5’11:
        Crosby
        Giroux
        Duchene
        Pavelski
        Kucherov
        Eberle
        Parise
        Guentzel
        Panarin
        Skinner

        Smaller:
        Fabbri
        Schwartz
        Granlund
        Domi
        Marchand
        Arvidsson
        Cammalleri
        Gaudreau
        Atkinson
        Johnson
        Zuccarello

          • TD

            The regular season and the post season are different beasts. Some of those players have an good playoff record, but most have not matched their regular seasons in the playoffs. Over 82 games, the intensity is not the same in the regular season as the playoffs. The refs also put the whistles away in the playoffs where lots of clutching, grabbing and interference makes it more difficult for smaller players. The larger players still need skill, but size is still important.

    • MM

      But the difference between 5’11” and 5’8 is significant, and i think 5’8″ is small and 5’11” as maybe just below avg. Yamamoto i would be very hesitant to draft in the first especially since he isnt a Center. Nick Suzuki looks perfect. Great article.

      • TD

        I agree with that completely. Highly skilled at 5’11” is not small in the NHL. Many of the skilled players are 6′ or a little under. 5’8″ is a different story. There have been lots of those in the CHL, but very few make the transition to the NHL. They are often successful when they do, because they end up being top six forwards. If they can’t make it as a top six forward they often don’t make it because their size reduces their ability to play in a bottom six role.

  • apr

    If Benning trades down and pick up these two smurfs (Suzuki or Yakamoto) that JD has been advocating to get along with another 2nd round pick I am going to be a Seattle (new hockey team) fan. That said, the Panthers will pick them up because of analytics, oh wait….nope, not likely. That didn’t work.

  • TheRealRusty

    I would be ok if GMJBTL traded down on draft day with another team in the 6-10 range if we can pick up another late 1st/ early 2nd (anyone knows which teams behind us will fill that criteria?… they might be desperate enough if they see a player they want drop to 5). Pick Suzuki who is a 2nd line center with 1st line upside, then use the extra pick we acquired to load up on one of the Finnish defensemen left on the board. With our 33rd and 55th (more defensemen?) we could potentially come out of this draft with our center (Horvat being our 1st liner) and defense depth looking pretty sweet…