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Catching The Torch: Nick Suzuki is raising his offensive game to a new level

Stats, highlights, and updates on the Montreal Canadiens prospects from the past week.

Terry Wilson / OHL Images

Each week we take an in-depth look at young members of the organization while providing an overview of Habs prospects playing at the junior (OHL, WHL), collegiate (NCAA) level.

After being separated for a long stretch of games, Nick Suzuki and Kevin Hancock were reunited this weekend. The Owen Sound Attack had a rough night against the London Knights on Friday, a 7-2 loss in which not much clicked for Suzuki’s team. In need of a bounce-back performance, and facing the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, the coaching staff bet on the pre-existing chemistry of the team’s two best point-getters.

Suzuki responded with a two-goal night. For his first, he capitalized on a turnover created by the forechecking pressure of Daylon Groulx. Once again he waited out the goalie, making him commit the first move, and slid the puck behind him — showing that his patience can continue to earn him goals.

But it was his second goal of the night that was especially memorable. It stands out even in the accumulated displays of skills and highlights of the Habs prospect this season.

Suzuki has great hands, but even if he is capable of it, he is not one to dangle through a defence, trying for a low-percentage play at every occasion. Getting to the slot by going around two or three defenders might be easier in Junior, but it is often not translatable to the NHL. In that regard, it is a good thing that Suzuki most often prefers smarter plays.

However, not unlike Jonathan Drouin’s latest goal, when there is a speed difference against a flat-footed defence, it is much easier to displace it and thread the puck through sticks and skates. Suzuki used his speed advantage to do just that on Saturday, evading pokechecks to get to the net, skating right in front of the blue paint, and lifting the puck above the goalie.

Nick Suzuki wears #37 with the Owen Sound Attack.

He could have scored a few more goals in this game; he had a staggering 14 shots on goal. It was not a mistake from whoever has the laborious task of tracking the pucks fired on net; Suzuki just never hesitated to use his release every chance he had. And he now fires a lot.

His inward-dragged shot has grown to be his most deadly weapon. Watch how the defender sets himself for the block, basing his stance on the position of the puck at the start of Suzuki’s release. Instead, the puck passes to the right of that defender a quarter of a second later. By bringing it closer to his body before shooting, Suzuki manages to reach the net even through heavy traffic.

Unfortunately, the Greyhounds goalie tracked the puck on this particular occasion and got his blocker out at the right moment to deflect the shot to the corner.

The Habs forward is averaging 5.43 shots per game this season; third in the OHL in that category.

Joël Teasdale, LW, Blainville-Boisbriand

Teasdale faced Samuel Houde in another duel of Habs prospects this week when the Armada met the Saguenéens on Saturday. Houde has been absent from the scoresheet more often than not lately, but Teasdale continues to put up points with regularity.

He scored off of a quick, precise release from the faceoff dot at the right of the Saguenéens goalie. It was his 11th of the season.

Joël Teasdale wears #24 with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada.

Teasdale also stood out for his defensive involvement in that game, an underrated aspect of the forward’s play. He disturbs the other team’s transitions and competes hard for the puck in his zone, even laying some crushing hits to separate opposing attackers from possession.

His play away from the puck was more than likely what pushed Montreal’s management to offer him a contract after training camp. Teasdale was going to put up points this season with Blainville, but he has emerged as someone who can get the puck back to create his offence.

Allan McShane, C, Oshawa Generals

McShane had a two-point performance against the Hamilton Bulldogs on Friday. His goal was another display of his ability to read the game.

While standing at the left of the goalie, he received the puck in his feet and bounced it up to his blade. McShane realized that it was too late for a shot as the netminder had time to slide over to cover the angles, so he peeked to the slot to find a target for a pass. Seeing no one available for a one-timer, he drew his focus back to the goalie, who in the meantime had splattered himself on the ice.

Allan McShane wears #61 with the Oshawa Generals.

This is where McShane got creative. Using a short game that he might be honing during the summer, the forward chipped the puck above the glove of the goalie for his seventh of the season. It wasn’t a powerful release, but a well-placed one, just out of reach to fall into the netting.

Cam Hillis, C, Guelph Storm

The Guelph centreman also had a two-point night on Friday, doing it in typical Cam Hillis fashion. His assist came after his hard work on the forecheck led to a turnover — and yet another goal from Isaac Ratcliffe — and Hillis’s goal was him pouncing on a puck to beat the Sault Ste. Marie goalie. He scored from his usual spot on the power play: at the right of the goalie, a position in which he can take advantage of well-timed passes from Ryan Merkley and rebounds created by shots from across the ice.

Unfortunately for Hillis, his game on Saturday was cut short and he couldn’t add more points to his record this weekend. He slew-footed Nate Schnarr and earned himself a match penalty. To make matters worse, this on-ice event leads to an automatic two-game suspension. This means that he won’t be able to take part in his team’s contests against McShane and the Oshawa Generals, which would have been another interesting head-to-head matchup of Habs prospects.

This forced break might give Hillis time to reflect and come back stronger for the fast approaching second half of the season. We’ll look to him to take the step forwards that were expected out of him after the draft.

Follow David (@RinksideView) on Twitter for daily prospect updates.

CHL weekly performance

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Joël Teasdale FA LW QMJHL Blainville-Boisbriand 3 1 2 3
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi Injured
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph 1 2 1 3
Allan McShane 2018 LW/C OHL Oshawa 3 3 1 4
Nick Suzuki 2017 C/RW OHL Owen Sound 3 1 2 3
Cole Fonstad 2018 LW WHL Prince Albert 3 1 2 3
Jarret Tyszka 2017 LD WHL Seattle Injured
Scott Walford 2017 LD WHL Victoria 3 1 2 3
Josh Brook 2017 RD WHL Moose Jaw 4 1 1 2

CHL season to date

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Joël Teasdale FA LW QMJHL Blainville-Boisbriand 28 12 17 29
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 26 6 9 15
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph 25 7 12 19
Allan McShane 2018 LW/C OHL Oshawa 22 10 8 18
Nick Suzuki 2017 C/RW OHL Owen Sound 27 20 21 41
Cole Fonstad 2018 LW WHL Prince Albert 25 6 9 15
Jarret Tyszka 2017 LD WHL Seattle Injured
Scott Walford 2017 LD WHL Victoria 21 2 9 11
Josh Brook 2017 RD WHL Moose Jaw 22 8 21 29

NCAA weekly performance

Player Draft Pos Conference Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos Conference Team GP G A P
Jack Gorniak 2018 LW Hockey East Wisconsin 2 0 1 1
Brett Stapley 2018 C WCHA Denver 0 0 0 0
Ryan Poehling 2017 C NCHC St. Cloud State 2 0 2 2
Nikolas Koberstein 2014 RD WCHA Alaska-Fairbanks 2 0 2 2
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 1 0 1 1

NCAA season to date

Player Draft Pos Conference Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos Conference Team GP G A P
Jack Gorniak 2018 LW Hockey East Wisconsin 16 2 3 5
Brett Stapley 2018 C WCHA Denver 12 3 9 12
Ryan Poehling 2017 C NCHC St. Cloud State 14 3 12 15
Nikolas Koberstein 2014 RD WCHA Alaska-Fairbanks 16 0 6 6
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 13 1 5 6

Cayden Primeau’s weekly performance

Player League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Player League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Cayden Primeau NCAA Northeastern 1-0-0 1.50 0.950 0

Cayden Primeau’s season to date

Player League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Player League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Cayden Primeau NCAA Northeastern 9-3-1 2.43 0.917 2