Ryan Suzuki appears to have been born to be part of the game hockey. He loves the game, he is working hard as he moves along his career path, and he very much wants to see people from all countries open to playing the sport.
Growing up in London, Ontario, Suzuki was around the game at an early age and he had a great role model to mold himself after.
“In the winter time we are always going out to the lakes, shoveling off all the snow, playing hockey and then in the summer playing road hockey. It’s a year-round sport. Also just having my brother around, not many people get to have someone in their life like that.”
Ryan’s older brother Nick was selected by Vegas in their inaugural draft and then traded later to Montreal in the Max Pacioretty deal, but Ryan says that just being around him for the experience of the draft was something that he really was able to learn from, as he is eligible for this year’s draft.
“You don’t usually get to watch what’s behind the scenes,” Suzuki said. “I got to be right by his side for some of those experiences so I’ve had a good look at what I should expect over the next couple months. It’ll be a cool experience for sure.”
Despite sharing similar capabilities and experiences on and off the ice, Ryan says that he and Nick are pretty different from each other in other ways.
“He’s more consistent I think, you always know what you’re going to get from Nick,” Suzuki said. “He’s quiet and a homebody where I’m more outgoing and energetic.”
With his older brother having played for Team Canada in the World Junior Tournament this past winter, Ryan has followed in his footsteps, and hopes to continue to do so.
“Yeah it’s definitely an honor, anytime you get to put on the Canadian jersey is something that is pretty special. I know a lot of kids dream of doing that, I still dream of playing at the World Juniors.”
Ryan learned a lot from having to be professional early in his life and also from having veterans in the locker room who had gone through the process already definitely helped as well.
“Coming into the OHL at 16, you have to to grow up a little bit faster. You’re going to a new school, you have new teammates, new family. It can be stressful, so I think that having teammates around that have gone through it definitely helps.”
Sometimes learning things from teammates who have more experience is the easiest way to measure what you have to improve. He had a great measuring stick in Barrie last year in the No. 2 overall pick for the Carolina Hurricanes, Andrei Svechnikov.
“You don’t get to play with guys like that very often,” Suzuki said. “Coming in, I didn’t think that I’d have as much help as I did. You don’t expect a team to be that great the first year, but improve as the years go by. Having a player like that come in and make an impact right away was really cool. Watching him put in work day in and day out was impressive, and seeing his routines was something pretty special. The guy is working out after practice, stretching so he can recover faster. The biggest thing I learned from him was routine and consistency.”
Drafted as the No. 1 pick in the OHL Draft in 2017, Suzuki says that the Barrie community has been nothing but supportive of him since his arrival.
“Yeah, it’s great to be up here for sure,” Suzuki said. “Everyone loves hockey up here. I’ll be at the mall or something, and people will recognize me and tell me good luck in the upcoming games or whatever it might be. It’s a great place to be. It’s super cool to go to community events and people will want to come up and take pictures, it’s definitely a great community to be in.”
As a key player in the OHL, Suzuki is in the spotlight consistently, and wants to continue the wave of Asian-Americans heading to the NHL, joining his brother who was picked in the same draft as fellow Asian-Americans Kailer Yamamoto (Edmonton) and Jason Robertson (Dallas).
“There’s not too many Asians playing in the NHL right now and it’s definitely something special to be a part of,” Suzuki said. “There are a lot more coming though in the future. In our league we have quite a few, and they’re all pretty special players, so it’s cool to be a part of that. Growing up, I was the only Asian on my team. I never really thought of myself as different though.”
While Suzuki takes great pride in his heritage, he also wants everyone to know that hockey can be a sport for anyone, no matter where you come from.
“Hockey is a sport for everyone,” Suzuki said. “The US and Canada have both established themselves as top hockey countries, but as you saw in the World Juniors, there are other countries coming in to take that top spot. I’m going to do my best though to help everyone to feel open to playing. Whether you were born in Japan, Canada or anywhere else, you can play hockey.”