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OHL 20 in 20 Summer Spotlight: Suzuki a Golden Knight on the Attack

 

Nick Suzuki‘s journey from Jr. Knight to Golden Knight runs through Owen Sound where the dynamic centreman did big things as a 17-year-old last season.

Joining defenceman Markus Phillips (9th overall) as the second of two first round picks by the Owen Sound Attack in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection, Suzuki (14th overall from the London Jr. Knights) made an instant impact in the Ontario Hockey League.

His 20 goals as a rookie in 2015-16 were the most by an Attack 16-year-old freshman since 2007-08, totals he built upon this past season as he netted 45 along with 51 assists and 96 points over 65 contests.

After he helped lead the Attack to an appearance in the Western Conference Final this past spring, the expansion Vegas Golden Knights took note of Suzuki’s offensive prowess, selecting him with the 13th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.

He joins Portland Winterhawks forward Cody Glass (6th overall) and Swedish defenceman Erik Brannstrom (15th overall) as one of three first round picks made by the Golden Knights to form a foundation for the expansion franchise moving forward.

“It’s really something special,” Suzuki said of the opportunity to be a part of a new operation in Vegas. “I knew coming into the draft that they had the 13th and 15th picks and figured I might go in one of those spots.

“It’s something not a lot of players ever get to experience and I hope to do great things with the organization.”

Suzuki became the highest drafted Attack player chosen at the NHL Draft since franchise great Bobby Ryan went second overall behind Sidney Crosby in 2005.

Though the bright lights of Vegas beckon, Suzuki is enjoying his time in Owen Sound, the OHL’s smallest community with a population of just over 22,000 with a large fan base living throughout Grey County.

“I want to do everything I can to bring another championship to Owen Sound,” he said after referencing the franchise’s most recent triumph in 2011. “Everyone there has been nothing but great to me. You see the fans around town a lot and they love the team.

“Losing to Erie in the conference final last spring was tough, and all I’ve really thought about since then has been winning a championship. That’s something we’re all striving toward this season.”

Suzuki made his first ever trip to Vegas for Golden Knights Development Camp shortly after the draft where he had a chance to meet other prospects and take in some of the city’s sights and sounds including Cirque du Soleil.

He’s extremely familiar with one significant offseason addition in newly named Golden Knights assistant coach Ryan McGill.

“We had a great working relationship together,” Suzuki said of the 2016 OHL Coach of the Year who gives way to Todd Gill behind the bench in Owen Sound. “It’ll obviously be a bit of a transition for everyone with a new coach in town, but we have an intelligent group in the dressing room that can adapt to systems and different approaches, so I’m looking forward to what’s in store.”

McGill had high praise for Suzuki this past season, citing his abilities as closely resembling the skills of two-way performers in Boston Bruins centreman Patrice Bergeron or Calgary Flames pivot Mikael Backlund in a piece done by Mike Morreale of NHL.com.

Having spent the summer in his hometown of London, Ont., Suzuki has been working out with former London Jr. Knights minor midget teammate Isaac Ratcliffe of the Guelph Storm. The 6-foot-6 winger and Midwest Division rival was a second round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers this past summer.

Suzuki’s eventful summer also included representing Canada at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Mich. this past month where he recorded a pair of assists in two games.

We’ve been pretty spoiled by talented OHL brother combinations like Erie’s Darren and Taylor Raddysh as well as Mississauga’s Michael and Ryan McLeod these past few seasons, but the 2017-18 campaign offers a new twist. We’ll have another set of high-skilled brothers, but this time they’ll square off against each other.

Two years younger than Nick, 2017 first overall OHL Priority Selection pick Ryan Suzuki will suit up for the Barrie Colts, a cross-conference rival of the Attack as the two teams meet six times during the regular season.

“I can’t wait for those games,” said the older Suzuki with a tone of anticipation. “In my first year we got beat a lot by Barrie, last season we had a good record against them, so we’ve formed a pretty good rivalry. To throw my brother into the mix will be fun and I have no doubt that we’ll have lots of family members in attendance for those matchups.”

The Attack haven’t had a 100-point scorer in their lineup since the days of Bobby Ryan in 2007, but if Suzuki’s development trajectory continues its rapid ascent, the sky is the limit for the crafty producer in 2017-18.

Over 20 days in August ontariohockeyleague.com will shine a summer spotlight on storylines from all 20 OHL clubs.  See more from the OHL 20 in 20 series.

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