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Hishon: 'Montreal has a special player'

The former Colorado Avalanche first-round pick is full of praise for Nick Suzuki

by Pierre-Antoine Mercier, translated by Dan Braverman @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com

MONTREAL - Canadiens fans have plenty of reasons to be excited about the thought of seeing Nick Suzuki in bleu-blanc-rouge one day.

That's according to Joey Hishon, the Colorado Avalanche's first-round pick (17th overall) in 2010 who's now an assistant coach with the Ontario Hockey League's Owen Sound Attack and founder of Hishon Skills Corp.

After a career in the NHL, KHL, and SHL, Hishon decided to get his own company going in the summer of 2018, one which specializes in skills training.

Suzuki is a loyal member of Hishon's program. The two men met a few years ago when Suzuki was playing for Owen Sound.

Hishon is at a loss for words to describe the full range of talent possessed by the Vegas Golden Knights' first-round pick (13th overall) in 2017.

"He's one of those players… it's really hard to explain. I can show him something only once and he'll execute it perfectly on his first try. He's definitely an elite player," mentioned Hishon, who won the OHL championship in 2010-11 with the Attack. "It's a lot of fun to work with him and he's a great person off the ice. I'd be very excited in Montreal if I was a part of that organization."

Hishon played alongside the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, and Gabriel Landeskog in 2014-15 with Colorado, but remains very impressed by the Habs prospect's skills nonetheless.

And contrary to what some naysayers would have you believe, Hishon confirms that Suzuki is indeed an excellent skater.

"Nick is extremely skilled with the puck. He's a deceptive skater," he explained. "Sometimes it looks like he's not moving that fast, but once you actually get on the ice with him, he's absolutely flying."

That said, the Owen Sound assistant coach acknowledges that the 20-year-old forward is known first and foremost for his hockey IQ.

"What sets Nick apart from most other players is his hockey sense. He's just so, so smart on the ice and he makes things looks so easy that are really not that easy," outlined the Stratford, ON native. "The biggest part of Nick's game is how well he thinks the game."

If you need more convincing, have a look at some tape on Suzuki. Hishon recommends watching the replays, too.

"He always manages to make nice saucer passes in tight. Even when you watch the replay, you ask yourself how he was able to see that player or how he knew that player would be there," shared the 27-year-old coach. "But he manages to do it game after game. You tell yourself, 'Wow, he for sure has eyes all around his head!'"

A flattering comparison

After Suzuki's historic performance in the OHL playoffs this spring where he collected 16 goals and 42 points in 24 games, Ottawa 67's head coach Andre Tourigny compared Suzuki to St. Louis Blues centerman Ryan O'Reilly.

Hishon is probably the most qualified to talk about the comparison, seeing how he's a good childhood friend of O'Reilly's and a former teammate of his with the Avalanche.

According to O'Reilly's childhood friend, Suzuki is even a step ahead of the 2019 Conn Smythe trophy winner at his age.

"In terms of hockey sense, I would say it's very similar. The thing with Nick and Ryan is they're obviously very good offensively, but they're also very intelligent defensively. They're always well-positioned," explained Hishon. "The only difference I see now is that Ryan is very strong physically, but Nick is a better skater than Ryan was at the same age. If Nick continues developing this way, I would say Montreal has a special player."

And according to Hishon, the London, ON native already has the skill set of an NHL player.

"As a young player, the most important thing to make the big jump is physical strength. Nick is very strong physically and in terms of skills, I skate with many NHL players in the summer and Nick has to be in the top two or three," concluded Hishon. "He's just incredible."

For more information on Hishon Skills Corp., click here.

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