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Suzuki eyes roster spot with Canadiens

Center, acquired in trade with Golden Knights, could play with Montreal this season

by Sean Farrell / Correspondent

MONTREAL -- Nick Suzuki welcomes his new opportunity to play in the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens this season.

The 19-year-old center prospect was acquired by the Canadiens with forward Tomas Tatar and a second-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft in a trade from the Vegas Golden Knights for forward Max Pacioretty on Sunday.

Selected by the Golden Knights with the No. 13 pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, Suzuki remembered having a good meeting with the Canadiens at the NHL Scouting Combine.

"They seemed to really like me and I always felt good about that," he said on a conference call with Tatar from Las Vegas on Tuesday.

Acquiring Suzuki was the key piece needed for the Canadiens to complete the trade, general manager Marc Bergevin said at Montreal's annual golf tournament Monday.

"I can tell you right now that getting Nick was something that we really had to have," Bergevin said. "I'm sure Vegas wasn't jumping up and down to give Nick Suzuki, but if you want to get a player like Max, you have to give, and that was the deal."

Suzuki had 100 points (42 goals, 58 assists) in 64 games for Owen Sound of the Ontario Hockey League last season and 196 points (87 goals, 109 assists) in 129 games over the past two seasons.

"He thinks the game well," Bergevin said. "I know the half wall, he's been playing that, he makes plays, he thinks offensively, and that's what he brings. He's got a skill set that made him the 13th pick overall."

Video: Golden Knights trade for Max Pacioretty

The native of London, Ontario, signed a three-year, entry-level contract with Vegas on July 15, 2017.

"[Golden Knights general manager George McPhee] might have thought I was a year or two from Vegas, but I think I'm going to do whatever I can to make Montreal, prove that I can be there," Suzuki said. "Yeah, switching teams, it's a bit of a different change, so I'm going to really have to see what Montreal wants from me. And if there's an opportunity to make the NHL, I'm going to do everything I can to do that."

The Canadiens intend to be patient with Suzuki, who views Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron as a role model, but they believe he has the potential to earn a spot now.

"It's possible, I mean, he's going to come to camp," Bergevin said. "We're going to watch him closely. He still could go back to Owen Sound, that's a possibility. So we're not going to rush him but we're open to see what he's going to bring when he's in training camp."

Tatar, who waived his no-trade clause to go to Montreal, had 34 points (20 goals, 14 assists) in 82 games with the Detroit Red Wings and Vegas last season.

Selected by the Detroit Red Wings in the second round (No. 60) of the 2009 NHL Draft, the 27-year-old forward was acquired by the Golden Knights in a trade on Feb. 26 for a first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, a second-round pick in 2019 and a third-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.

Tatar had two points (one goal, one assist) in eight games in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when Vegas lost to the Washington Capitals in five games in the Stanley Cup Final. He has three seasons remaining on a four-year contract he signed with the Red Wings after the 2016-17 season.

"The plan was to show the people here in Vegas that I should be on the top lines, and now it's changed," Tatar said. "So I'm really excited to join Montreal and I want to prove I can be on the top lines and be productive, and show I can score maybe 30 goals."

Tatar has 228 points (119 goals, 109 assists) in 407 games through seven NHL seasons, and scored an NHL career-high 29 goals with the Red Wings in 2014-15.

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