A strong sophomore season for Nick Suzuki has helped cement his role as Montreal’s top centre. With that comes an expectation for him to produce more; what type of numbers could he put up in 2021-22?
Many players go through the sophomore jinx. Many jinxes aren’t real but that one seems to catch a lot of players. But not Suzuki. He, like many Habs, got off to a hot start offensively with a point in each of his first seven games and 12 in his first 12 contests. There were some lulls along the way although he never went more than four games without a point; that consistency stood out in a year where Montreal’s offence was often either really good or really bad with not a lot in between.
Suzuki also pushed his way into the top centre role. While Phillip Danault’s trio was often listed as the number one line and the one that often drew the toughest matchup, it was Suzuki that led the way in average ice time for a Montreal forward. When you’re playing more than anyone else, you’re a top-liner, even if you’re not on what was called the top line.
In the playoffs, Suzuki was once again steady offensively, leading the Habs in scoring while going no more than two straight games without recording a point. He found quick chemistry with Cole Caufield, giving him an extra legitimate scoring threat on the wing and that line had success. All in all, Suzuki didn’t come anywhere close to having to deal with the sophomore jinx.
Season Stats: 56 GP, 15 goals, 26 assists, 41 points, -5 rating, 26 PIMS, 5 PPG, 1 GWG, 110 shots, 18:11 ATOI, 44.0% faceoffs
Playoff Stats: 22 GP, 7 goals, 9 assists, 16 points, -6 rating, 2 PIMS, 2 PPG, 1 GWG, 53 shots, 18:55 ATOI, 45.7% faceoffs
2 Year Averages
(The stats for 2019-20 and 2020-21 have been extrapolated to an 82-game rate. As a result, Suzuki’s averages here will be higher than his actual output in those seasons.)
After finishing the season as Montreal’s top centre, it’s safe to say that Suzuki will once again be in that role this season. The early indication is that the combination of Suzuki flanked by Caufield and Tyler Toffoli on the wings will remain intact and that line had some success when deployed together late in the season and in the playoffs.
What will be worth monitoring is his special teams usage. Suzuki and Mike Hoffman like to operate in the same spot on the power play. When healthy, if Hoffman takes over that spot on the man advantage, could that drop Suzuki down to the second unit with Christian Dvorak being the centre on the top unit? Suzuki has also shown himself to be capable of killing penalties although both Claude Julien and Dominique Ducharme shied away from using him there too often. With Danault gone, will that change? (Dvorak, Jake Evans, and Cedric Paquette will all be in the mix there as well.)
Then there’s the situational usage. By that, I mean in late-game situations, particularly on the defensive side of the puck. The importance of faceoffs can be debated but coaches put a lot of importance on them late in games. Dvorak was used similar to the way Danault was last season but if Suzuki can improve on that front, he can work his way into a bit more playing time that way, either to replace Dvorak or play alongside him. From an offensive standpoint, some empty-net situations to pad the stats is always intriguing for whoever has him in a fantasy league.
After playing at a 60-point pace last season, it’s understandable to hope for another step forward in that regard, especially if the chemistry he has shown with Caufield continues to improve. But I’m going to temper those expectations a little bit. I think he can get to that mark but that alone would be an accomplishment.
Let’s keep in mind that Suzuki still hasn’t gone through a full NHL season yet with the last two years being abbreviated and by the time the stretch came in his rookie year, he was completely out of gas. His line will also be more of a defensive focal point for teams. I do anticipate there will be a couple of bumps along the way as a result.
In terms of fantasy value, a 60-point centre is going to go relatively early off the board and I suspect he’s going to earlier than he probably should. His Yahoo! ADP is around 90 right now and that’s a bit high unless you think he is going to put up more points than that. Suzuki won’t provide a lot of extra value in other categories either. Don’t get me wrong, he’s going to be a critical player for the Habs this season but his overall value to the team won’t be judged entirely by stats.
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