Nick Suzuki scored his 11th goal of the season, helping the Montreal Canadiens defeat the Anaheim Ducks as the rookie continues to gain confidence in the NHL.
All eyes have been on Cale Makar this season when it comes to the Calder Cup. The defenceman made his NHL debut in the playoffs last year similar to what Charlie McAvoy did with the Boston Bruins, and made an immediate impact. Because of his play and production, Nick Suzuki having a shot at the top, hasn’t been discussed as much, but his growing confidence with the Montreal Canadiens is giving him the pedestal to stand up amongst his rookie peers.
Suzuki’s power-play goal against the Anaheim Ducks was his 11th of the season. As far as the rookie leaderboard goes, he’s fourth in scoring with 34 points behind Victor Olofsson (35) as well as Makar and Quinn Hughes, who are tied with 40. Another notable name is Dominik Kubalik of the Chicago Blackhawks, who leads all rookies in goals with 21 in 52 games.
The 20-year-old has had an up-and-down season so far with the Habs. Not with his performance, but his place in the lineup. Suzuki started out on the wing on the fourth line seeing shifts with Nate Thompson before getting slowly getting promoted to the second line with Max Domi.
His play on either end of the ice continued to improve so much so that he pushed Domi to the wing for a stretch of games. Claude Julien is comfortable with the rookie and allows him to play his style, and as the days have passed, Suzuki has gained more and more confidence. Now the 2C spot in the top-six is his to lose, and he’s proved to be the most consistent of the three Habs studs, including Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Ryan Poehling.
It’s interesting to see how the story has gone considering many had him spending the season with the Laval Rocket. That said, it speaks to the kind of person Suzuki is. He doesn’t quit and always tries to better himself in all areas.
Whether Suzuki can get a Calder Trophy nomination will depend on how he finishes the season. It’s safe to assume that Makar and Hughes are locked in for the first two nominations. They’ve been the best defencemen on their respective teams this year, and it’s not even up for debate. To have the impact they’ve had is one thing, but to do it on the backend is impressive, to say the least.
The third spot may already have Kubalik’s name on it. Hitting 20 goals in the NHL is difficult as it is. Only 43 players are at that milestone, but Kubalik isn’t the youngest at 24. That honour goes to Andrei Svechnikov of the Carolina Hurricanes. However, goals are easier to evaluate when it comes to performance of players relative to each other.
Suzuki excelling at centre is something that shouldn’t go unnoticed. He is committed to defence and doesn’t have bad shot suppression metrics in the slightest. At the same time, he’s set up teammates with good plays and has been able to put the puck in the net.
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Perhaps Suzuki needs more points on his total to get Calder recognition, but he’s been solid enough to get a few looks. Whether he does it or not is a mystery. However, Suzuki should be proud of the season he’s put up so far.