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2019 NHL Draft prospect profile: Ryan Suzuki is an intelligent playmaker

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Suzuki carved his spot on a struggling Barrie team.

Barrie Colts v Niagara IceDogs Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Ryan Suzuki is an underrated playmaker who could add a great deal of skill to a prospect pool that is already brimming with talent.

If you watched even one game for the Barrie Colts this season, you saw how Suzuki was the main offensive generator of the team. His vision and drive are incredible. His intelligence to see, create, and adapt plays on the fly is off the charts. Every time he is on the ice, he becomes an immediate threat to the opposition.

Birthplace: London, Ontario, Canada
Shoots: Left
Position: Centre
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 172 lbs.
Team: Barrie Colts (OHL)

He will often be compared to his brother, Montreal Canadiens blue-chip prospect Nick. While Nick has advantages in certain aspects of the game, don’t sleep on Ryan’s own ability, as he is quite the player himself. He isn’t a polished product yet, but he has enough tools to warrant a high selection. He is the taller, and shiftier, of the Brothers Suzuki.

EliteProspects

Ryan has the potential to be one of the top skater of his draft class. He’s very agile, showing a great acceleration, and his skating enables him to consistently reach advantageous positions on the ice. He derives his speed and quickness from an almost perfect skating technique: his 90-degree knee-bend and straight, but forward-leaning back maximizes the power of his strides. As he gains leg strength, he has the form necessary to start flying past defencemen even more easily.

Head always up, he moves up and down the ice, in and out of the opposing defence, switching from forward skating to agile moves, fluidly looking for passing targets. His great vision also serves him in putting himself in scoring positions, where he’s able to capitalize on the play.

Suzuki isn’t scared to hold on to the puck a little longer to create space for a teammate before finding him for a scoring chance. In Junior, Ryan is also able to slow down the pace to match his desire to open lanes for his teammates and dictate the flow of the game.

Ryan also has excellent hands and handles the puck smoothly — a recurring theme for the brothers. In the clip below, watch him slide the puck through his skates with the use of a backhand toe-drag to set himself up for a shot in the slot; a very bold move that speaks to his creativity as a puck-handler.

Ryan isn’t scoring at the rate Nick did, but it doesn’t mean that is he lacking in that department. He knows how to pick his spot and score, as seen in the clip below. He does tend to play with a pass-first mentality, and his 50 assists on the year are proof enough of this. That isn’t bad per se. He’s a playmaker through and through, but seeing how crafty and good his hands and shot are, he would definitively gain from trusting his instincts and shooting a bit more.

His tendency to look for passing targets more than shots on net is clearly reflected in his advanced stats. While he generates a lot of scoring chances from his feeds and drives the transition game of his team, his expected goals are well below average.

From Mitch Brown’s CHL tracking project

The consequence for Suzuki is that opponents have learned that he is passing the puck more often than not. This is especially evident on the power play. This season, the forward would skate up from his position on the half-wall, threatening to shoot only to sometimes have his pass across intercepted as the defenders were not being fooled by his attempts at deception. A better use of misdirection and a more balanced mix of shots and passes would make Suzuki even more dangerous in the offensive zone.

The tracked stats also accurately represents the work in progress that is Suzuki’s defensive game. The centreman got better in his efforts at covering the opposition as the year went on, but is still sometimes drawing circles in the defensive zone, eager to get on the attack. He does not play an overly physical game, often preferring to avoid contact if possible. Instead, he bets on his agility to help him move around the ice. He is more of a finesse player in the sense that he’s not going to outmuscle his opponents, but work at outsmarting them.

Rankings (not all rankings are final)

Elite Prospects: #23
Future Considerations: #12
Hockey Prospect: #23
ISS Hockey: #20
McKeen’s Hockey: #18
McKenzie/TSN: #12
NHL Central Scouting: #18 (NA skaters)

Ryan Suzuki will undeniably offer an offensive boost to whichever team selects him. The 25-point gap between him and the second-highest scorer on his team demonstrates how important he was to the Colts’ offence.

He also showed why he would be a top selection come this June at the Hlinka/Gretzky Cup. He scored one goal and assisted seven times in five games. He was a force on the ice for a Canadian team that fumbled out of the medal round. He showed that no matter what his environment, he was able to rise above it and demonstrate his skills.

Suzuki is a creative and silky smooth distributor. He boasts an incredible level of vision on the ice, has soft hands to handle pucks, and knows how to force the defenders to open up lanes. His poise with the puck makes him look like a veteran on the ice. Any time he can make his vision, hockey sense, and passing skills shine, he is at his best. Couple that with an his skating ability that lets him use the space on the ice, and you get a very strong playmaking centre. Whichever team picks Ryan Suzuki will have a tremendous player on their hands.