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Nick Suzuki is still a long way from Phillip Danault when it comes to defensive play.
Credit: Capture d'écran / Screenshot

When you think of Nick Suzuki’s 2023-24 season, it’s pretty hard to see it as anything other than an all-round success. The Canadiens’ captain has scored 64 points in 69 games so far this campaign, and his 27 goals this season are a personal career high.

He may be starting to drift away from the one-point-per-game pace, but even if he scores 70-75 points, it will be a huge success for the Habs’ iron man.

That said, in addition to his offensive production, the Tricolore captain’s defensive performances were also highlighted. Let’s not forget that, back in January, some people weren’t totally ruling out the possibility of him winning the Selke Trophy.

Even Ryan O’Reilly took the time to give him some love for his defensive play.

As the season draws to a close, it’s doubtful that Suzuki will win the Selke Trophy… but, as Kevin Dubé notes in an article for the Journal de Montréal, the captain’s defensive game has improved immensely.

In fact, according to SportLogiq, Suzuki doesn’t yet have the profile of a Selke Trophy winner, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s one of the best defensive forwards on the circuit. In particular, he excels in terms of pucks collected in his zone and 1-on-1 battles won in his zone, and is in the league’s top-15 in both categories in 2023-24.

That said, the evidence is there to suggest that he could eventually earn more serious consideration. On the other hand, he’s still a long way from a guy like Phillip Danault, whom the firm places among its three favourites for the honour.

Charlie Coyle and Vincent Trocheck are the other two, for those interested, but they won’t be the only ones in the running.

As we’ve seen in his time in Montreal, Danault’s defensive game is his bread and butter. The Kings’ forward can muzzle opposing top players on a regular basis, which is not (yet?) the case with Suzuki.

He’s done it a few times this season, notably with Auston Matthews, but he still has the occasional rough night.

Suzuki’s current defensive skills are undoubtedly promising. That said, it may be a while before we can place him among the NHL’s crème de la crème defensively.

But in any case, a very good center in his zone who’s close to a point a game is a good thing, isn’t he?

In bursts

– We’ll see if this has an impact on David Reinbacher’s presence in the lineup.

– The famous conditional first-round pick acquired with Sean Monahan continues to be the talk of the town.

– This story is beyond comprehension.

– It’s an event not to be missed. I’ll be there, as will my colleague Charles-Alexis Brisebois.

– What do you think?

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