Between two shots filmed for the purposes of a documentary about the rivalry between Canada and Nordics, this past weekend, Del Hunter allowed himself to conjure Nick Suzuki.
“He’s the one who killed us in the playoffs two years ago,” said the former Nordic center, who has been following the playoffs diligently this spring.
His team, the London Knights, were driving three wins to zero over Guelph Storm in the second round of the Ontario Junior League playoffs when Suzuki got a lap.
Storm was trailing again, this time by three to one, in the semi-finals against Saginaw’s Soul, when Suzuki, once again, turned into a monster.
In seven games when Storm faced elimination, the Canadians’ young player scored seven goals and ten points.
In the final, Ottawa’s 67 seconds led Andre Torrini two games to zero, before suffering the same fate as London and Saginaw, despite losing only 12 in the regular season. Suzuki has collected 11 points in the last four games of this series…
Torrini was full of praise for this young man that the Canadian had already earned for Max Passeurity.
“You see him playing against other clubs and you think you know how good he is, he stated on this page a few days after his club was disqualified. You tell yourself he’s strong, but it might be different than defender Kevin Bahl who is 6-foot-6, 236 pounds.” He’s another animal all the same as “Bahler”. But you confront him and realize that he can do the same things against Bahler…”
Torini praised his intelligence. “I found him very good, very clever, I thought he was doing a lot of good things on the ice, but facing him, it all swelled. It’s his head-to-head intelligence, the way he absorbs hits, the way he protects his pinch, a lot of things that make him a difficult player Too much to stop it. I knew it, but I didn’t know how much.”
Andre Torrini was already convinced that Suzuki would turn out to be a very good player for the Canadian, but he may have kept himself a little awkward. “He will play professional, but I know the Montreal world, it’s not the McDavid or McKinnon or Guy Lafleur that will move the crowd. He will be a very, very good hockey player. He will help his team win, his coach will love him and make him play a lot, but it is not electrifying.”
He had dared compare him to Ryan O’Reilly, the Conn-Smythe Cup winner awarded to the playoff MVP that year. “He will at least be a second-line man, attacker top 6. It reminds me a lot of Ryan O’Reilly (who threw from the left as opposed to the Suzuki, who was right-handed). Like Suzuki, you have to face or drive O’Reilly to realize how much better it is than you think. He does many things: he reads the match, cuts passes, does not make many mistakes. These guys are hard to meet. “
Even in the National League, Nick Suzuki seems to be putting in his best performance in the playoffs. The Canadian was arguably playing his most important game since 1993, on Tuesday night in Las Vegas, with a 2-2 draw in the semi-finals.
Suzuki initially set up an unusual way for his team’s second goal at the start of the second half. In a move reminiscent of Nikita Kucherov’s goal on Ondrej Palat in Game 2 of the series between the Lightning and the Islanders, Suzuki entered opponents’ area with the disc, freeing himself to attract defenders, then handed it to Eric Staal, alone in the pocket.
Three minutes later, he stole the puck from Golden Knights captain Mark Stone after a continuous defensive retreat on the edge of the home ground, then swept the back disc in the direction of Corey Berry, who then spotted Cole Caufield in the pocket. Suzuki ended his evening by scoring in the empty net.
His tally of three points on Tuesday raised his tally to 13 in 16 play-offs to finish second in the team that scored a goal behind Tyler Toffoli, who has another point.
Suzuki, 21, now has 20 points in 26 playoffs, averaging 0.77 points per game. He has 82 points in 127 regular season games, averaging 0.65 points per game. They said a man for special occasions.
All three CH players aged 21 or younger have scored in Game 5. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki scored 13 of the 35 goals in their team’s playoff game, accounting for 37% of the team’s total production.
Quebec Premier François Legault was right to be elated Tuesday night on Twitter.