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Suzuki ready to lead, says past Canadiens captain

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It was definitely an emotional moment for the 23-year-old forward, and a spectacle considering it was the historic franchise’s home opener against longtime rivals the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“It’s a dream come true,” Suzuki said last month at the NHL North American Player Media Tour in Las Vegas.

Taking on the role of perhaps the most scrutinized person in Montreal may seem like a burden for a player with three years of experience in the NHL, but those who have captained the Canadiens say Suzuki is that. It says it’s ready.

Yvan Cournoyer, who captained the team from 1975 to 1979, said Suzuki was perfect for the role.

“It’s an honor to be captain of the Montreal Canadiens,” Cournoyer told “We didn’t have a captain last year. I think we need a captain. He’s young, but he’s got a good attitude on and off the ice and wants to do well.”

“He’s really mature for a young captain.”

In his three NHL seasons with Montreal, Suzuki has amassed 143 points (49 goals, 94 assists) in 209 games, including his NHL career-high goals (21) and assists (40) last season. will be

Suzuki was the captain of the last team to finish in the NHL last season (22-49-11) and is unlikely to play for this team. Carrie Pricewho is still recovering from knee surgery he underwent on June 23, 2021, is the winningest goaltender in Canadiens history.

video: Nick Suzuki Named 31st captain of the Montreal Canadiens

He also leads a team that already has a 21-year-old forward. Cole CorfieldHe scored 23 goals last season and signed the 21-year-old forward this offseason. kirby duck 18-year-old forward selected in trade with Chicago Blackhawks Yurai Slavkovsky #1 pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.

“I think it’s going to be fun. We’re all young, we’re all together,” Cournoyer said. “I think the crowd is behind them. Last year was tough, like I said, we didn’t have a captain, it was tough, but I think we have a chance to win this year. Maybe not. Major a playoff [run]But they may be very close, but they’re going to arrive together, with coaches and everyone. ”

But Guy Carbonneau, who captained the Canadiens from 1989 to 1994, said part of the captain’s responsibility is to stay true to himself when times are tough.

“For me, it’s impossible not to be captain one day and not captain another day. It always happens,” Carbonneau said. “So sometimes you have to step up and stand up and say what you have to say and don’t be shy about it.

“For me, I think that was the hardest part. I never had a problem saying what I thought. Most of the time, it’s the captain. So, you can’t be afraid to say things. But like I said, put the team first and okay you’ll never be in trouble .”

Suzuki said he first started thinking about becoming captain when the Canadiens traded him. Shay Weber to Vegas Golden Knights in June. 16. Weber has been captain since October 1, 2018, but he missed all of last season with multiple injuries and is unlikely to play again.

A few weeks later, coach Martin St. Louis met Suzuki at the Bell Center during the 2022 NHL Draft and asked him to consider taking on the role as captain. St. Louis didn’t want an answer that day, but Suzuki knew what he would say.

“I didn’t think it was overkill. I was ready for the day when he said it, but he just told me to take a moment and really think about it. said Suzuki.

He did his research and contacted Weber, who had taken over as captain a few weeks later from his previous captain. Max Pacholetti, was traded to Vegas. Suzuki was drafted by Vegas with his 13th pick in his 2017 NHL Draft and came to Montreal in that trade.

“He told me to keep being myself,” Suzuki said of Weber. “We have a similar attitude, we are very calm. We play the game the right way. He had a lot of respect for me as a young player. Being captain. It was really special.”

[RELATED: Maple Leafs, Canadiens get things started again in season opener]

The official announcement was made on Sept. 12, with Suzuki alongside some of the greatest Canadiens players in history like Cournoyer, Henri Richard, Maurice Richard, Jean Beribault and Toe Blake.

It also put him under the microscope that comes with being the Montreal captain, the enthusiastic media, and an enthusiastic fanbase that scrutinizes his every move.

Brian Gionta, who captained the Canadiens from 2010 to 2014, said Suzuki is ready to handle anything thrown at him.

“He’s been there for a few years. He understands the landscape of the team in relation to what it means for the city, the inner workings of the media and the pull from it. It’s,” said Gionta. said. “I know the guys there, owner Jeff Molson,[general manager]Kent Hughes, they have a lot of experience.

“Despite his age and years in the league, he’s clearly ready. It’s certainly important that he’s already been there for a few years. I am familiar with.”

Carbonneau said it was important for Suzuki not to listen to what was said about him and the team in the media and social media.

“There will always be people who say different things than you think. But like I said, I always put the team first. It wasn’t things, my stats, etc… For me, it was always like putting the team first.”

One thing everyone seems to agree on is that Suzuki’s age won’t matter in his new role. Brendan Gallagherwho is with the defenseman Joel Edmanson Suzuki will serve as the alternate captain for the Canadiens, dubbed “Heartbeat”.

“He’s a young player, but he’s very mature,” Gallagher said on Sept. 12. We’re about to win a hockey game.

Suzuki said he was ready.

“This team is heading in a great direction and I couldn’t be more excited to represent the team as captain,” he said on September 12. I know it’s a big role, but I think I’m ready for it. There is a bright future here and I am excited to be a part of it. ” columnist Dave Stubbs contributed to this report.