There are a lot of negative points that could be made about the Montreal Canadiens’ 6-5 loss in Sunrise to the Florida Panthers. Those points may very well be accurate, but at the same time we would be remiss to ignore the continual strides of rookie Nick Suzuki, who was among the few good Canadiens players on Sunday.
With three assists on the night, Suzuki has planted himself just behind Quinn Hughes in the rookie scoring race, at fourth overall. With seven goals and 16 assists, and riding a five-game point streak Suzuki is not only one of the hottest rookies in the league right now, but one of its hottest players without the first-year qualifier. He has made major progress from the slightly tentative rookie who started the year to a supremely confident one who is making skillful plays with ease.
What’s more is that Claude Julien has no issues deploying him in high-pressure situations, and given the outcry over Suzuki’s usage to start the year, it seems pretty apparent that Julien’s strategy was just fine.
The Canadiens were in desperate need of someone to fill the void left by Jonathan Drouin’s injury, and Suzuki has done that in recent weeks, making it all the more tantalizing that Drouin should be back in the near future to join him.
Cale Makar and Victor Olofsson are also on the list of contenders for the Calder Trophy, but Suzuki is joining that conversation. He won’t get the same ice time as Makar or the aforementioned Hughes, and Olofsson’s production is heavily reliant on the power play, whereas Suzuki is doing a lot of his work — at both ends of the ice — at even strength. It’s not a guarantee that he’ll be nominated, but as Suzuki continues to assert himself, the voters won’t be able to ignore his performance.