If we go back to the year 2017, we get to see the NHL entry draft. The Carolina Hurricanes were picking 12th followed by a new team, Vegas. With some fantastic talents ripe for the picking, the two players that went at these two positions are the two I want to talk about. With the 12th overall selection, Carolina took Martin Necas. 13th overall? Nick Suzuki.
Now a lot of you are going to go “Wait, Vegas picked Suzuki? I thought he was a member of the Montreal Canadiens!” and you would be right. He was part of the trade that sent Max Pacioretty to Sin City. We know that Suzuki has shone as a member of the Montreal Canadiens. Suzuki has been a cornerstone of the Habs hockey club since his arrival in Quebec.
Necas has had some fantastic success as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes, and Suzuki has had great success with the Montreal Canadiens. They’ve been budding stars in the league to this point in their careers. With the two young men performing at the highest level, but a question I was recently asked was “Should the Canes have taken Suzuki?”
Suzuki has been a great performer for the Montreal Canadiens, recording 41 points in both his first 2 seasons, with the 2nd season being only 56 games. At the time I am writing this, he has 14 points in 16 games with the Canadiens this season, but the team is struggling. Perhaps suffering from a hangover from their Stanley Cup finals appearance last year. Suzuki has a total of 32 goals and 64 assists for 96 points in 143 games.
Martin Necas has played in the NHL in each of the last 5 years. He played one game the year after his draft before being sent back to junior, but injuries have meant that he hasn’t been able to play as much as Suzuki. Necas has 34 goals and 51 assists for 85 points in 136 NHL games. It’s a difference of only 11 points in an extra 7 games. So, the player with the better production totals right now is Suzuki.
Now, this is where I loved this debate. Who has the higher ceiling? Necas’ skating ability is unmatched in this debate. That’s not to say Suzuki cannot skate, but Necas looks like he could compete in speed skating. Both have evil hands and silky mitts, and both can shoot. Both are very talented. But I’d argue Suzuki’s ceiling is at best a second-line center on a perennially contending team.
Necas was drafted as a center but outside of his first 9 games, hasn’t played C in this league. He has played right-wing, and he’s been a top-line right-winger on a division winner. Now, centers are more valuable than wingers, but is that C more valuable on the 2nd line than a top-line winger? That’s always an interesting debate.
On top of that, there are their playoff stats. Suzuki has 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 32 post-season games. Necas has 3 goals and 6 assists for 9 points in 19 games. Suzuki seems to have the edge when it gets tough, but he’s also been sheltered whereas Necas has played in Carolina’s top six whenever he’s been in the post-season. It’s a fun debate to have.
If Suzuki was a Carolina Hurricane right now, would he be in a better position than Necas? I’d argue no. Carolina’s center depth at this point in time is the strongest in the NHL. Suzuki would still be on the right wing, and he doesn’t have the tools to play the wing that Necas does in terms of his passing and skating abilities. Both are right-handed shots so this is a direct comparison.
What do you think? Should Carolina have taken Suzuki over Necas in hindsight? Let me know in the comments, or on social media. I will reply to everyone on both Facebook and Twitter as long as you let me know why you think this. It’s an interesting debate and I’m sure this will get a few habs fans debating this as well.