Okay, I’ll admit it. In the past I had never been overwhelmed by Nick Suzuki.
Not being critical. Not saying he wasn't a good player, it’s just that as an opposing player I never really saw what others saw.
Maybe that’s because in games against the Guelph Storm he rarely stood out. With the exception of a five-point game two seasons ago, he averaged a point a game over his career in head-to-head battles against the Storm.
He wasn’t an end-to-end guy. He wasn’t particularly physical. Most of his points seemed to come on the power play, I thought.
Again, as I often am, I was wrong.
For the record, since being able to watch him on a nightly basis, especially during the post-season, I now know what all the fuss is about.
Suzuki has simply been phenomenal during these playoffs.
He set a new team mark for points in a post-season with 38, surpassing Marty St. Pierre’s 35 (both in 22 games), 12 of his 15 goals have come at even strength and he has only been held off the scoresheet in three of the team’s 22 playoff games.
The numbers speak for themselves.
But the most amazing thing about Suzuki isn’t the numbers, it’s his uncanny ability to control the puck, and by-and-large, the game.
Time and time again the 5’11”, 180-pound Suzuki will go into the corner against bigger, stronger opponents and come away with the puck.
Time and time again he uses his body, his balance and - most significantly - his brain, to ward off defenders, use their own momentum against their intentions, shift his direction ever so slightly to diminish the effect of the other player and angle his body to offset the size difference.
It’s a skill unto itself that has nothing to do with the puck or the stick.
It’s also what will carry Suzuki to the next level. Whether it’s as a winger or centre, that combination of skill and smarts.
Several players in this OHL championship series skate faster, several shoot harder. None are smarter.
And like all great players, he makes those around him better.
It just took me a while to realize it.