Leafs Draft Watch Profile: Nick Suzuki



This is the fifth in a series of posts where we will take a look at five players the Toronto Maple Leafs could potentially pick at the upcoming 2017 NHL draft this week. 


In the previous post, we looked at Juuso Valimaki, a defenseman playing for Tri-City Americans, as a possible player for the Toronto Maple Leafs to pick on June 23rd.

For the final article in this series, we will shift gears and focus on a player that has quietly put together a strong season in his draft year and has the potential to be one of the sleeper picks of the draft. Nick Suzuki, a center for the Owen Sound Attack, is the player in question, and should be of interest for the Leafs should he be available at the 17th spot in the draft.

Bio

Age: 17
Height: 5 foot 11 inches
Weight: 183 Pounds
Hometown: London, ON
Position: Center
Shooting: Right

Stats


 SEASONTEAMLEAGUEGPGATPPIM+/-    POSTGPGATPPIM+/- 
 2014-15 London Jr. Knights Min Mdgt AAA AHMMPL3134346816| Playoffs1345910
 London Nationals GOJHL10110|
 2015-16 Owen Sound Attack OHL632018384-15| Playoffs62020-6 
 Canada White U17 WHC-1761342|
 2016-17 Owen Sound Attack OHL654551961051| Playoffs178152310
 TOURNAMENT STATISTICS
 2014-15 Team Ontario CWG63140|
 London Jr. Knights Min Mdgt AAA OHL Cup62462|
 Team ALLIANCE OGC-1653360|
 2015-16 Team White U17-Dev30222|
 2016-17 Canada U18 Hlinka Memorial412301|
Provided by Elite Prospects

Rankings

Ranked #18 by Hockeyprospect.com
Ranked #11 by ISS Hockey
Ranked #19 by Future Considerations
Ranked #16 by McKeen's Hockey
Ranked #10 by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters)
Ranked #12 by TSN/McKenzie 

List provided by Elite Prospects.

What the scouts say

Peter Harling Dobber Prospects - Mar. 19th: "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."

Jeff Marek of Sportsnet - Mar. 8th: "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."

ISS Hockey - Feb. 25th: "Moving up the rankings. Recently recorded a career-high six points with a goal and five assists."

Mike Morreale NHL.com - Jan. 20th: "Suzuki (5-11, 187) has 56 points (23 goals, 33 assists) and a plus-28 rating in 43 games, all improvements from the 20 goals, 38 points and minus-15 he had in 63 games last season as an OHL rookie. He's versatile, has high-end hockey sense and vision and is a gifted passer and underrated finisher."


List of quotes provided by My NHL Draft.

Strengths

Nick Suzuki has a number great aspects to his game that scouts should be excited about in considering him as a draft choice.

In just his second season in the OHL and first of NHL draft eligibility, Suzuki posted a monster season offensively registering 45 goals, 51, assists, and 96 points in 65 games played, which helped propel the Sound into the OHL playoffs that resulted in a deep run. He did all this as a 17-year-old, so you can only imagine how much better he can be as he matures as a player.

Despite standing at 5 foot 11 inches, Suzuki likes to play a physical brand of hockey. He excels in puck battles in the corner, defensive positioning, and likes to position himself in front of the goalie for a screen or to tip it into the net. These traits are more commonly found in larger players, so seeing Suzuki possess this ability is impressive for someone of his size. 

Suzuki's biggest selling point is his strong play-making abilities. When he has the puck in the offensive zone, Suzuki is always looking to create scoring chances for his teammates and positions himself in the right spot for both a pass or a shot on goal. His high hockey-IQ allowed him to become the Sounds' primary play-maker and he could fill that role again should he reach the NHL.

Weaknesses


While Suzuki does have some very attractive aspects to his overall game, there are a few areas that he needs to work on for his development to be an NHL-ready player.

There were times during this past season where Suzuki tried to do it all himself offensively, which resulted in him scoring 1.6 points per game in the final 50 games of the year. This mentality is fine in junior, but will hamper his development if he continues to try do it all on his own. If he uses his teammates more often, in combination with his strong play-making abilities, he will be dangerous in the offensive end each time he has the puck.

Another knock against Suzuki is that he isn't the ideal size for a centerman, which is an unfair criticism. The reality is, many scouts look for bigger centers who can make an impact on the game in all areas of the ice. Suzuki certainly does make an impact on the ice, so he should be able to override his diminutive stature with strong play.

Perhaps the biggest weakness Suzuki needs to improve upon is his skating.  While he is quick on his feet and can move around the ice efficiently, he struggles to keep his strides smooth, which tires him out more quickly. This problem can be addressed through working with a good skating coach to make his strides more efficient thus preserving energy, which will make him an even more effective player. 

Is he worth it?

At the end of the day, Suzuki possesses a lot of attractive aspects to his game that makes him an intriguing prospect for the Leafs. He has great offensive skills, likes to use his body in all areas of the ice, and has strong play-making abilities.

He does have some areas for improvement, including using his teammates more frequently than he currently does and his skating abilities, all while not being the ideal size for a centreman. These are things he can improve upon with practice and time, especially considering he is one of the youngest prospects entering the draft. 

Without a doubt, Suzuki should of interest to the Leafs when they make their first-round selection on Friday. Sharing traits with players such as Matt Duchene and Connor Brown, he should definitely be taken at the 17th spot should he be available, as he may become the sleeper pick of the 2017 draft. 

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All stats for this article are from Elite Prospects.
You can follow Michael Mazzei on Twitter @MichaelMazzei3. 

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