Personal goals are often taboo in a hockey locker room. But when a young player decides to break the silence, he will talk about his ambition to score 20 goals or amass 50 points. He will calculate his goals to be achieved. These are classic responses during a camp.
Nick Suzuki adopted a much different mindset when asked to describe his goals for his second season in the NHL.
“I would probably say my pluses and minuses (-15), replied Suzuki after coming out of a second practice on the ice in Brossard. It was pretty bad last year. I don’t have a number of goals or assists in mind. I especially want to play for a good team. For me, it’s about the team. We have a good chance of making the playoffs, of being one of the good teams in our division. We are all excited about this possibility. “
Suzuki inherited a spot on the NHL Rookie All-Star Team last year with 41 points (13 goals, 28 assists) in 71 games. He became the first CH player to receive this honor since Brendan Gallagher in 2013.
If he said he was annoyed by the statistics of -15 in the regular season, Suzuki greatly improved this number in the playoffs by finishing with a record of +3 in ten games. And we shouldn’t forget that despite his young age, he played against centers like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Sean Couturier in the bubble in Toronto.
By videoconference, Claude Julien answered a multitude of questions about Suzuki. Each time, he found new phrases or formulations to describe the potential of his 21-year-old center. On several occasions, he spoke of his great maturity despite his young age.
Julien rightly referred to the aspect of maturity when he was told about Suzuki’s statement on his desire to improve his plus and minus record and to play for a winning team.
“Nick is a very mature young man,” replied Julien. He has lived too. He reached the Memorial Cup with the Guelph team, he played for Canada at the World Juniors. He has the right approach. The players have a job and they want it to work for them. But if everyone thinks of the team first, you usually have more success and better stats. “
A second year in the NHL remains linked to the fear of the famous bad luck. For some, it is a simple construction on the part of the media. For others, it is a reality.
For the Habs, Jesperi Kotkaniemi certainly hit a wall in his second year in Montreal. Before the long hiatus due to the pandemic and the return to playoff play, the Finn had lost his confidence and eternal smile.
Will Suzuki be safe from this danger? He offered a first response in the qualifying round against the Penguins and in the first round of the playoffs against the Flyers. He was not a losing player. On the contrary, he was one of the best forwards on the team with 7 points (4 goals, 3 assists) in ten games.
“When you look at how the last season unfolded, it’s like we’ve played two seasons in one year,” said Suzuki.
“Nick has the potential to become an impact player,” added Julien. He has good maturity, good confidence, but he is not arrogant. He is humble as a person. He knows his strengths. Since his arrival, we have seen a very intelligent player on the ice, a player with very good vision. It makes him a very good player. However, we do not want to add pressure to it. But if he plays the way he’s capable, that will make him an impact player. “
At 21 and 20 respectively, Suzuki and Kotkaniemi represent the future of the team, but they are also the present. To be successful, the CH will rely heavily on its two young centers. A situation that does not frighten Suzuki.
“I talked about this with KK, we know this reality,” he replied. We want to be important players for this franchise in the future and we want to build a team capable of winning the Stanley Cup. “
Suzuki described himself as a less shy person on the eve of his second season. It also shows in his ambitions.
Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Bobr Times, Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my firstname.lastname@example.org 1-800-268-7116