9Nick Suzuki of the Owen Sound Attack.
Photo Credit: Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

Flames 2017 First Round Targets: Nick Suzuki

In each draft class, there’s usually a player that fits an organization’s needs like a glove. In 2013, the Flames landed Sean Monahan. In 2014, they nabbed Sam Bennett. In 2016, they added Matthew Tkachuk. Another Ontario Hockey League standout seems like he would be the best case scenario at 16th overall for the Calgary Flames.

Friends, let me tell you a bit about Owen Sound Attack forward Nick Suzuki.

Scouting report

A lot of prominent scouting voices have a lot of nice things to say about Suzuki’s play.

From Brock Otten’s excellent OHL Prospects site:

The key to Suzuki’s game is his combination of amazing hockey sense and non stop motor. I saw NHL.com’s Mike Morreale recently say, “Suzuki plays the game like he’s got red bull flowing through his veins,” and I think that’s a very accurate statement. Suzuki isn’t the world’s quickest skater, but he has great agility and it allows him to really whirl around the offensive zone like a Tasmanian devil. Plus, he’s always one step ahead of his competition, which means he’s outworking you and out-thinking you. His playmaking ability is top notch and it’s no fluke that he was able to be one of the league’s leading scorers in the regular season and post season. But his goal scoring ability is something that is underrated. He has a deceptively quick release and he’s so adept at getting himself scoring chances. This is a well rounded offensive player. Suzuki also uses his motor to play defensively and on the PK, where he’s developed into one of the league’s premier penalty killers.

From 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.

Jeff Marek: “A high hockey IQ and very little panic in his game. Versatile player: They use him on both the first unit PP and PK in Owen Sound.”

Craig Button: “He’s skilled with high hockey sense and contributes in all situations at a highly consistent rate.”

In short: Suzuki is a really good, right shot center. He’s good in all three zones. He’s good on the power play. He’s good at killing penalties. He’s smart. He seems like a really strong prospect.

The numbers

The exciting thing about Suzuki is that he’s a player that scouts rave about, but whose excellence is also reflected in the numbers. There will be no appeal to intangibles when it comes to Suzuki.

  • He scored 46 goals, good for fourth in the OHL.
  • He generated 96 points, good for fifth in the OHL.
  • He was 11th in even strength primary points in the OHL, just behind Owen Tippett in terms of draft eligible players. When secondary assists are included he actually creeps ahead of Tippett in even strength scoring.
  • He was fifth in power play (5-on-4) primary points, the top draft eligible player.
  • He scored five shorthanded goals, second in the OHL and tops among draft eligible players.

Owen Sound was the second-best OHL team in the regular season, and a lot of that was because of Suzuki and a handful of players. The Attack had six players who scored at a point-per-game pace (or higher): Suzuki, 19-year-old Petrus Palmu, 19-year-old Kevin Hancock, overage defender Santino Centorame, overage center Cordell James and draft eligible Jonah Gadjovich. The team was good, but based on his production relative to his teammates and how well he placed in terms of primary points it’s likely that Suzuki was dragging his teammates along with him rather than the opposite.

Availability and fit

The Flames need to amass some middle six talent, particularly guys that have right-handed shots because their system is extremely thin on them. In addition, the Flames have really leaned on their OHL scouts in terms of their picks: roughly half of the players selected under Brad Treliving’s regime have been from the OHL. They’ve had a lot of recent success stories: Monahan, Bennett, Tkachuk, Andrew Mangiapane, Rasmus Andersson and Tyler Parsons among them. Thus, it’s likely that Suzuki would be a fit to Calgary’s needs and that the OHL scouts that would be going to bat for his selection would be listened to considering how well the OHL outcomes have been recently.

Availability may be the challenge here. ISS, Craig Button and The Hockey News have him ranked before Calgary’s pick, while other agencies and rankings have him available. At this point, it seems like a 50/50 proposition that he’ll be on the board when the Flames go to the podium. If he is, though, they better take him. He seems to tick a lot of their boxes and could solve plenty of their problems.