"A special group": Canadiens' Suzuki wants to keep team's core together

Feb 14 2023, 6:58 pm

When Nick Suzuki was first traded to the Montreal Canadiens back in 2018, it was a move that in many ways signalled the beginning of a new era for the storied organization.

Coming along with Tomas Tatar and a second-round draft from the Vegas Golden Knights as part of a package for departing Habs captain Max Pacioretty, the then-19-year-old Suzuki admitted he wasn’t sure what to expect when he first joined the Canadiens.

“I was a little bit nervous coming into the new organization. I was comfortable with the Vegas staff and players and everything to do with that. So, just changing organizations is different for everyone,” Suzuki said in an interview with Daily Hive. “But the opportunity to come here to Montreal, and get a chance pretty early to play good minutes as a young player really helped me out. And I think I wouldn’t be in the position I have if I wasn’t traded. So just lucky that Montreal wanted me, and I tried to make the most of it.”

Suzuki’s sophomore year in Montreal saw the team sitting 18th in the NHL on points, squeaking into the playoffs as the fourth-place side in the league’s All-Canadian North division.

But once the playoffs started, Suzuki and his Habs teammates shocked the world, beating Toronto, Winnipeg, and his old organization in Vegas en route to their first Stanley Cup Final since the team last won it all in 1993.

He’s hoping the experience can inspire teammates like Cole Caufield that went through it with him, as well as newcomers like Juraj Slafkovský and Arber Xhekaj, both in the midst of strong rookie seasons in Montreal.

“I know what a winning team looks like,” Suzuki said of what he learned during that playoff run. “To make it to the Stanley Cup Final, in my second year, was a hell of a run. And I know what it feels like to be on a really losing team. And you never want to want to be on that end. I think the future that we have, as an organization and team is really promising with a lot of young guys that we have in the system and already playing with us. And if we can keep this core together, I think it’ll be a special group, and it’ll lead to a lot more playoff runs for us.”

Speaking to the Canadiens’ brass

Much of the task of rebuilding the Canadiens falls on general manager Kent Hughes, who was hired in January 2022 after longtime GM Marc Bergevin was let go in November 2021.

“It’s been great since the start,” Suzuki said of his relationship with Hughes. “He’s a very open general manager, is around the group a lot. If you have any concerns or questions, he’s always there to answer them for you. And he’s truthful. So I think that’s all you can ask for, in a general manager, and he’s been great and made a lot of great moves for us in our future. So we have all the trust in him. And I know he’s gonna do a good job at it.”

Another key figure in the Canadiens’ organization is head coach Martin St. Louis, who is in his first full year on the job after a Hall of Fame playing career with the Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers, and Calgary Flames.

“The way that he takes care of business and runs a team is pretty incredible, honestly, with the coaching experience that he’s had. So I know, he’s gonna keep getting better just by experience and we love to bounce ideas off each other. And I think he really respects my mind for the game already,” Suzuki said of his relationship with St. Louis. “So it’s easy for me to go up and ask questions, and maybe challenge him a little bit with some stuff. He’s been through it all as a player and his experience is huge for me, and I can learn a ton off him.”

Keeping it healthy

On Wednesday, February 15, Canadian meal kit brand Goodfood is launching its first line of athlete-friendly meal-kits this week, with Suzuki putting out “Nick’s Pick’s” selection of recipes for paleo, keto, and vegan meal-kits, a first for Goodfood.

For a typical 7 pm puck drop, Suzuki will eat a breakfast of an omelette, potatoes, sausages, bacon, blueberries, and raspberries, watermelon, followed by a game day lunch meal of pasta, chicken, and broccoli, and a light snack around 4 p.m.

“Once I kind of turned pro and knew I could really make it to the NHL, I kind of focused on my diet a bit more,” Suzuki added. “It’s really helped out me and my performance and just the way I feel.”

Suzuki thinks that the Goodfood kits will be a great option for people like himself who are always used to being on the go.

“I pretty much ate whatever I wanted to when I was a kid growing up, and whatever’s easiest because we had such a busy schedule,” Suzuki said. “I know the meals are fresh and going to be perfect for me. And for other people that just need access to a quick, healthy diet it’s the best thing. I know a few people that use Goodfood already. So I’m happy to hop on board.”

Building a legacy

Being named the team’s youngest-ever captain this past September, there’s plenty of responsibility placed on the 23-year-old’s shoulders.

But he’s made the most of it so far: Suzuki has 17 goals and 25 assists in 53 games for the Canadiens this season, as he currently leads the team in scoring.

One recent occurrence for Suzuki that solidified his place among the league’s top players was his second appearance at the NHL All-Star Game earlier this year in Florida, where he had the chance to take the ice alongside some of the game’s most famous stars.

“Having [Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin] there… just being a part of that, maybe one of their last all-star games [was special],” Suzuki said. “Just to see them out there having fun bring brings back a lot of memories of me watching them growing up… just to experience that with them a little bit, it was really cool for me.”

Back in Montreal, Suzuki’s not tired of the fanfare that comes with the Canadiens’ history.

“You see the way that people react to Carey [Price], and P.K. [Subban] and all the guys that came before us. Whenever someone’s back in the building, they get a huge ovation. The Guy Lafleur memorial was something that nobody really gets to experience,” Suzuki said.

And as for if he has plans to be looked at as a legend of his own in Montreal one day?

“It’s kinda too early to think about that… but as a player, you want to be remembered like [how other players in Montreal get treated],” Suzuki added. “It’d be a dream come true.”

Adam LaskarisAdam Laskaris

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