Suzuki brothers push each other toward international dreams
TORONTO — Ryan Suzuki isn't shy when the chance to chirp his older brother Nick comes his way. That's how it's been since they were kids playing mini-stick hockey and video games in their family home.
Ryan, who plays for the Ontario Hockey League's Barrie Colts, is expected to be a high first-round pick in the upcoming NHL draft two years after Nick went 13th overall to the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017. If Ryan hears his named called earlier than his brother's was, he'll use that as ammunition when training with Nick in the off-season.
"I'm not going rub it in his face, but I'd definitely have that over him," Ryan said. "If I got mad at him I'd bring it up."
Nick produced 45 goals and 96 points in 65 games in his draft year playing for the OHL's Owen Sound Attack, then followed it up last season with 42 goals and 100 points in 64 games.
"He's a guy I look up to and I definitely want to pass his point mark," said Ryan. "That's the goal."
Ryan is well on his way in his sophomore year. The 17-year-old has four goals and 18 points in 10 games to start the 2018-19 season.
"I check up on his stats, I think he's well on his way for sure," said 19-year-old Nick, who has five goals and 11 points in eight games to begin his fourth season with the Attack.
"I knew growing up that he was going to be a really good player (but) I didn't know he was going to be this good right now. I think he has great things ahead of him."
Much of the banter tossed at each other comes from their close relationship, so when Ryan needs advice on how to approach the draft Nick is right there to help.
Ryan accompanied Nick to the 2017 draft in Chicago and got to pick his brain about the entire experience — everything from anticipating hearing your named called to what it's like receiving an NHL sweater and cap to wear on the stage.
"He told me about all that stuff, I think I will be a little better prepared than he was for the draft," said Ryan.
"Going through the draft process he was asking questions and I told him: 'worry about the season and everything will be fine after that,'" added Nick. "I just told him keep playing your game, he's had a great start so far."
The Suzukis grew up in the London, Ont., area and played their minor hockey with the London Junior Knights, although never together. They didn't even have a chance to play each other in competitive hockey until last season, when they met in an OHL pre-season game and took the opening faceoff against each other.
They went head-to-head five more times in the regular season. Nick had five points while Ryan was mostly held in check with one assist.
"I just remember looking across at him and having a big smile on my face," said Nick about their first encounter. "It was really cool to have all our family members in the stands watching us. Every time I get to play him is a lot of fun."
Nick is listed at six-foot and 183 pounds, putting him one inch shorter and 12 pounds heavier than Ryan. He says they both play a similar style of game as centremen with their on-ice awareness and play-making abilities being their bread and butter. The main difference is that Nick will sometimes play left wing and shoots right, while Ryan is a lefty.
"We grew up basically playing the same way," said Nick, who was acquired in the summer by the Canadiens as part of the Max Pacioretty trade, with Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin saying he was the key to the deal.
With the competition between the two being a daily thing for well over a decade now, Ryan took a poke at his older brother this past summer on Twitter when Nick tweeted out his NHL '19 player card and rating.
When Ryan saw the 67 rating given to Nick, he responded simply "Quicksell," a reference to the team mode function of trading away a player card not worth keeping.
"It was pretty funny, but it didn't hurt my feelings too much," said Nick. "Both of us are pretty competitive."
AROUND THE CHL:
— Saginaw Spirit forward Damien Giroux, a Minnesota Wild draft pick, is the CHL player of the week after producing four goals and three assists for seven points in two games. The 18-year-old from Hanmer, Ont., had the game winner in both games while getting in on seven of the nine total goals his team scored over the weekend.
— Alexis Gravel of the Halifax Mooseheads earned CHL goaltender of the week honours after stopping 65 of 66 shots to win back-to-back starts, including a 30-save shutout against the defending Memorial Cup champion Acadie-Bathurst Titan. The 18-year-old from Asbestos, Que., is a Chicago Blackhawks draft pick and is third in the QMJHL with a .927 save percentage in eight starts.
— Kingston Frontenacs winger Cameron Hough was handed a 15-game suspension for a hit from behind on Erie Otters defenceman Brendan Kischnick on Oct. 12. He's eligible to return on Nov. 22.
— As of Wednesday, the top 10 teams in the CHL rankings are: 1. Prince Albert (WHL, 11-1-0); 2. Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL, 9-1-0); 3. Halifax (QMJHL, 8-2-0); 4. Victoria (WHL, 7-1-0); 5. Peterborough (OHL, 8-2-0); 6. Vancouver (WHL, 9-1-1); 7. Baie-Comeau (QMJHL, 8-2-1); 8. Ottawa (OHL, 8-3-0); 9. Saginaw (OHL, 6-2-1); 10. Guelph (OHL, 6-2-1).
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Kyle Cicerella's junior hockey notebook will be published every Thursday.