Comments / New

2023 Montreal Canadiens Top 25 Under 25: #1 Nick Suzuki

Credit: Anton Rasegard/EOTP


For those who have followed our 2023 Top 25 Under 25 series, it should come as no surprise that the captain of the Montreal Canadiens, Nick Suzuki, tops our list yet again. It is his fourth straight year atop the heap, coming on the heels of his first season wearing the C, which was also the first year of his eight-year contract.

It was a tough year, during which there were only two consistent truths: he would be the top-line centre every night, and for the better part of the year, he’d have to play with pretty much whomever was available.

Every linemate he had throughout the year was removed from his flank at some point, either out of necessity elsewhere in the lineup or due to injuries. He had a blazing hot start to the season with Cole Caufield on his left, but when a shoulder injury ended the American’s season just past the halfway point, it was a revolving door of wingers for Suzuki from there on out.

Despite plenty of adversity, he posted a career-high 66 points through a full 82 games. It wasn’t enough to keep the Habs out of the basement, but it was enough to quell some of the trepidation – contrived or otherwise – about whether he could live up to the new contract. He proved that he deserved the contract, and if he can continue his progression, it could look like a bargain in a few years as the cap continues to rise.

Heading into year two of his captaincy and contract, he’ll be looking to silence the doubters even more with another career year.


Our panel, including the community vote, was nearly unanimous in declaring Suzuki the best Canadiens player under 25 years of age. Hadi and Dachmatic were the lone dissenters, placing Suzuki at second and third, respectively, and both choosing Caufield as their under-25 king.

Top 25 Under 25 History

2022: #1 2021: #1 2020: #1 2019: #5

Debuting in the top-five back in 2019, Suzuki quickly took the number one spot the following year, and has held it ever since. An impressive streak of four consecutive first-place finishes will come to an end only as a result of aging out ahead of our 2024 vote.

History of #1

.tg {border-collapse:collapse;border-spacing:0;}
.tg td{border-color:black;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;
overflow:hidden;padding:10px 5px;word-break:normal;}
.tg th{border-color:black;border-style:solid;border-width:1px;font-family:Arial, sans-serif;font-size:14px;
font-weight:normal;overflow:hidden;padding:10px 5px;word-break:normal;}
.tg .tg-rjwb{background-color:#21386F;color:#FFF;font-weight:bold;text-align:center;vertical-align:bottom}
.tg .tg-8d8j{text-align:center;vertical-align:bottom}

Year #1
2022 Nick Suzuki
2021 Nick Suzuki
2020 Nick Suzuki
2019 Max Domi
2018 Jonathan Drouin
2017 Alex Galchenyuk
2016 Alex Galchenyuk
2015 Alex Galchenyuk
2014 Alex Galchenyuk
2013 P.K. Subban
2012 P.K. Subban
2011 Carey Price
2010 Carey Price


Suzuki is one of the best playmakers the Canadiens have had in some time. Elite hands, vision, and innate awareness of where his teammates are on the ice allow him to complete some sublime passes. A big part of Caufield’s 40-plus goal pace before being injured was thanks to Suzuki and the precision passes he was putting in his winger’s wheelhouse.  

He excels at manipulating passing lanes, be it through his puck-handling or the threat of his shot moving defenders around. He requires the smallest of windows to deliver a cross-seam pass as his accuracy in passing is among the best in the league. Even when a small lane doesn’t present itself, he’ll elevate the puck and sauce it to a teammate anyway. He is quite gifted in the ways of puck distribution.

His shot is arguably somewhat of an underrated quality, as he possesses a heavy wrister with a deceptive release. He also seemed to have really found his spot on the power play last year, converting relatively regularly from near the top of the right faceoff circle. If opposing teams try too hard to camp in the passing lanes on him, he can make them pay from distance.

A career mark of around 33% in shootouts jumped to 71.4% for Suzuki in 2022-23, becoming one of the most lethal shot-takers in the league. Favouring the “Datsyuk” move – a wide swing after entering the zone, holding the puck on his forehand before flicking it back against the grain – he was beating goalies even when they were prepared for the move.

There is so much he can do offensively, and it feels like we haven’t yet seen him truly at his best. A little more consistency in lineups, and of course some better luck on the injury front, and there could be a lot more to unlock in Suzuki’s production.


While Suzuki is unquestionably the top pivot in Montreal, the conversation has become whether he can drive play enough to become an elite number-one centre in the NHL. We saw the magic with Caufield, but Suzuki’s scoring took a significant hit when he didn’t have that elite shot on his wing. In an ideal world, he could develop some of his playmaking skills into generating more opportunities for himself.

More shooting volume could be a simple fix on that front. Suzuki shot the puck 162 times last season, which sounds like a lot until you consider that Caufield had 158 and was gone by mid-January. Caufield is the one you want shooting more often than not, but Suzuki keeping some of those looks would at the very least force defenders to respect his shot more, and open up more opportunities for Caufield, if not increase Suzuki’s own scoring potential.

The defensive numbers for his lines throughout the season weren’t fantastic, but it is quite hard to lay that at the feet of Suzuki. With Caufield, they weren’t tasked with defending, and their given objective from Martin St-Louis was clear – get out there and create scoring chances. Without Caufield, his most common linemates were the inexperienced Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, and the defensively challenged Josh Anderson or Mike Hoffman. Defence is surely an area for improvement, but calling it a weakness exclusive to Suzuki feels unfair.


Where we normally try to project a player’s ceiling in this section, Suzuki is already a legitimate top-line centre in the NHL. He has even garnered some consideration among pundits projecting the next best-on-best Team Canada for a reserve spot, and could play his way into a roster spot before such a team is assembled. This goes back to the question of whether or not he can become an undeniably elite centre.

There is a not-insignificant sect of the fanbase that has wondered about the possibility of separating Caufield and Suzuki, and placing the American instead on the wing of Kirby Dach. This idea is at the very least worth some exploration, but the expectation as camp approaches is that the pair will be reunited to start the season. If they start slow, the calls for them to be separated could pick up steam quickly.

Finding the right winger to skate with them will be paramount to their success together. Anderson has worked in small samples, but not consistently enough. Dach worked, but he’s a centre they plugged into that line out of necessity. Harvey-Pinard fared admirably with Suzuki later in the season, but we don’t know if he fits on that line with Caufield back in the fold.

It may require some trial and error, but once they find the right configuration, we could see a real breakout year from the Canadiens’ dynamic duo.

We are thrilled to have John Lu of TSN joining us on this episode. John not only took the time to discuss Nick Suzuki, but made a Top 25 list of his own and discusses it with Patrik Bexell.

2023 Montreal Canadiens Top 25 Under 25: #2 Cole Caufield
A shoulder injury last year cut short Caufield’s bid to become the Habs’ best goal-scorer in 30 years. This year he may be eyeing even loftier heights.

Support Habs Eyes On The Prize by signing up for Norton 360