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Suzuki Looks to Future After Signing Entry-Level Contract

Canes' first-round selection has impressed in training camp

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

On Tuesday night, 18-year-old forward Ryan Suzuki lined up across from Steven Stamkos and the Lightning on the frozen sheet in Tampa.

The next morning, he walked into a fourth-floor conference room at PNC Arena to sign his first National Hockey League contract with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Welcome to the show, kid.

"It all happened pretty quick. It feels like just yesterday I was selected," Suzuki said. "It's been pretty special for me."

In three short months, Suzuki has skated past a number of mile-markers in his quest to become an NHL player. It began with the 28th overall pick at the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver. Longtime Hurricanes lead amateur scout Tony MacDonald, since retired, approached the on-stage microphone to announce the selection.

Video: Inside the Storm: Episode 1

"I think my mom was pretty nervous. It was pretty tense up in our seats, but I'm super relieved and excited," Suzuki smiled, shortly after hearing his name called. "Right now, I can't really to put into words. I think when I reflect on it maybe tomorrow or the next day I'll be able to look back and really enjoy the moment."

The following week, Suzuki attended Prospects Development Camp in Raleigh, his first introduction to what it takes to become a Hurricane.

"I'm excited to get to work with all the guys," he said after the first day on the ice. "The biggest thing for me is getting down here and taking all the experiences in. It was a tough day today, but it's definitely worth it down the road."

Video: In the Room: Ryan Suzuki

As a warm-up to training camp, Suzuki was featured on the Hurricanes' Prospects Showcase squad that competed against three other teams in Nashville. After a blowout in the first game, Suzuki responded the next day with a five-point (1g, 4a) performance, and he finished the Showcase ranked tied for first among all skaters in points (6) and assists (4).

"The biggest thing is consistency," Suzuki said after his eye-catching performance in the second game. "You have to work for every puck, every inch you're given out there. I've learned a lot already, and it's only been two days."

"He understood what it takes to play at this level," Charlotte Checkers head coach Ryan Warsofsky said. "He was proactive with his feet and got going a little bit quicker."

Suzuki parlayed confidence from that short weekend of competition into the start of training camp, and he made his preseason debut for the Hurricanes in Tampa on Tuesday night. The London, Ontario, native was better than 50 percent in the faceoff circle and recorded a plus-1 rating in 15:36 of ice time.

The next morning, he put pen to paper on his three-year, entry-level contract that carried a signing bonus of $277,500.

"It's pretty special," he said. "It's something I've worked for my whole life. To make it official is something pretty special. I'm excited to be a Hurricane."

"Everything he has done has been well-received. He's a guy who certainly has the commitment to be a player," President and General Manager Don Waddell said. "He showed up in good shape and committed to compete. He got to play in an exhibition game last night, and the coaches were very happy with him."

Video: Suzuki: "Seeing familiar faces, it's helpful"

Suzuki was among the first group to practice on Thursday morning. Head coach Rod Brind'Amour tabbed the newly signed forward, who he referred to as "kid," to take the first post-drill penalty shot. Suzuki buried a backhander, forcing the goalies to skate the length of the ice down and back.

"Heavy pockets!" Jordan Martinook hollered.

"New deal, new me," Brett Pesce joked.

The Hurricanes' 2019 training camp roster is arguably the deepest its been in years at all positions. Because of this, and because of the transfer agreement between the Canadian Hockey League and NHL that bars CHL players from being assigned to the American Hockey League until age 20, Suzuki is likely headed back to play with the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League this season and perhaps even next, as well.

Until that roster decision is made, Suzuki continues to absorb any and all knowledge he can. He's a first-round talent with a bright future ahead of him, and inking his entry-level contract is yet another meaningful step toward realizing his dream.

"I've learned a lot in just this last month," he said. "This is a great place to play. All the guys have been great, and I'm looking forward to the future."

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