Speedy Suzuki key to deal with Knights
Forward could join Canadiens lineup this season
MONTREAL Nick Suzuki, a 19-yearold forward, is the key return in the Monday trade that sent Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty to the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Canadiens also obtained NHL veteran Tomas Tatar and a second-round draft pick next June, but general manager Marc Bergevin made it clear that Suzuki is part of the Canadiens’ plan to get younger and faster.
“Vegas selected him 13th overall and we had him at 11 on our list,” Bergevin said Monday before teeing off at the Canadiens’ annual charity golf tournament at Lavalsur-le-Lac. Suzuki was long gone when the Canadiens picked 25th and selected Ryan Poehling.
Bergevin said Vegas general manager George McPhee was reluctant to give up Suzuki, but realized it was part of the price for adding a 30-goal scorer.
Montreal is hoping that Suzuki can be a 30-goal scorer as well. Scouting reports say he’s a speedy, skilled player with a nose for the net. He had 45 goals and 96 points in 65 major junior games with the Ontario Hockey League’s Owen Sound Attack in his draft year and improved to 100 points with 42 goals in 64 games last season.
Suzuki has one year of junior eligibility remaining, but Bergevin and head coach Claude Julien said the youngster will be given a chance to earn a spot in the NHL this year.
“You look at Victor Mete and he came to camp last year as a 19-yearold and everybody thought he would be going back to junior, but he made the team,” said Julien.
Suzuki is most often listed as a centre, but it should be noted he put up those monster numbers last season as a left-winger and he was playing left wing at the Golden Knights’ rookie camp. He describes himself as a versatile forward who can fill all three spots and it’s interesting to note he’s a right-handed shot who has been playing on his off wing. While many European players line up on the off wing, it’s rare for a North American player.
Tatar, 27, has scored 20 goals on four occasions with a high of 29 in 2014-15.
Vegas gave up first-, second- and third-round draft choices to acquire the Slovak at the trade deadline, but he was a disappointment. He had four goals and two assists in 20 regular-season games and appeared in only eight games during Vegas’ run to the Stanley Cup final with a goal and an assist.