Three players of Asian descent were selected in the 2019 NHL Draft.
Centre Ryan Suzuki was drafted in the first round, 28th overall, by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2019 NHL Draft. The younger brother of Canadiens prospect Nick Suzuki, Ryan also plays a cerebral, patient, and skilled game. Although there are clear similarities with his brother, the younger Suzuki is more of a playmaker and a better skater.
[Suzuki] has real strong hockey sense. He handles the puck well, he sees it well. He’s got all the tools it takes to be a good NHLer.”Dale Hawerchuk, Head Coach of the Barrie Colts
A first-overall draft pick in the OHL, Suzuki is able to wait the extra second for a better play to develop and routinely make difficult cross-seam passes. His vision and hockey sense combine in a unique package that also gives him the ability to kill penalties in major junior.
Once projected to be a top-10 draft pick, Suzuki fell in the rankings over the last year due to a good but not dominant season, where he scored 75 points in 65 games. Playing for a Barrie Colts team with a dearth of offensive talent, Suzuki led the team in scoring by 25 points but was often guilty of over-handling the puck and trying to do to much to create the perfect play.
I think my mom was pretty nervous. It was pretty tense up in our seats, but I’m super relieved and excited…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.Ryan Suzuki to NHL.com (2019)
Suzuki will be reunited with his former junior teammate Andrei Svechnikov, the Hurricanes’ second-overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. The Suzuki brothers are fifth-generation Japanese-Canadians (Gosei).
With the 53rd overall pick, the Toronto Maple Leafs selected left winger Nick Robertson. The younger brother of Dallas Stars prospect Jason Robertson, Nick is a dynamic 5’9″ forward with an unstoppable motor. The best way to describe his playing style in the words of The Athletic‘s Scott Wheeler:
NICK ROBERTSON PLAYS HOCKEY IN CAPS LOCK. HE SKATES REALLY FAST. HE HITS REALLY HARD. HE CAN RIP THE CURL-AND-DRAG RELEASE OFF THE RUSH. IF IT DOESN’T GO IN, HE’S FOLLOWING IT TO THE TOP OF THE CREASE. IF THAT DOESN’T WORK, HE’LL CHASE YOU DOWN, HE’LL FIND YOU AND HE’LL KILL YOU…HE’LL PROBABLY HURT HIMSELF SOMEWHERE ALONG THE WAY BUT HE’LL MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN OR DIE TRYING.Scott Wheeler, Midseason Prospect Rankings for The Athletic
Projected to go in the late first round, Robertson is a steal for the Leafs at the end of the second round. He led the Peterborough Petes of the OHL in scoring this season with 27 goals and 55 points in 53 games. Although his stats are solid rather than spectacular, Robertson has a lot of potential to develop as one of the youngest players in this year’s draft.
Robertson is a constant on the highlight reel, with dynamic stick-handling and passing ability. He has one of the best shots in the draft, and is able to consistently beat goaltenders from distance. Hand in hand with his offensive ability, however, Robertson tries to do too much at times and turns the puck while making risky plays. He likely fell in the draft due to concerns about his skating, especially given his smaller size.
Nick is a highly skilled player with a tremendous level of compete. He works extremely hard in all three zones. He is extremely focused and everything he does is based on becoming a better player.Michael Oke, General Manager of the Peterborough Petes
Overall, however, Robertson’s dynamic and fearless play makes him one of the most exciting players to watch in the OHL. He is a second-generation Filipino-American from Southern California who talked about the recent increase in draft picks of Asian descent:
It’s great to represent the Asian community…it’s definitely special and I know there are up and coming players in California who look like me when I’m younger and hopefully they can step in my shoes one day. It’s great to set an example along with my brother and the Suzukis that no matter who you are, you can always succeedNick Robertson at the 2019 Draft
A first generation Japanese-Canadian, defenseman Jordan Spence was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the fourth round, 95th overall. Born in Sydney, Australia, Spence grew up in Osaka, Japan before moving to Prince Edward Island in Canada as a teenager.
A highly-poised right shot defenseman who won the QMJHL Rookie of the Year award, Spence made an immediate impact playing major minutes for the Moncton Wildcats and quarterbacking their first power play unit. He finished the year with 49 points in 68 games, and his 43 assists was the highest for any rookie in the QMJHL.
I think they like me that I’m an offensive defenseman…I don’t think size matters in the game now. Obviously there are bigger guys, but I think it’s changing to speed and skill and that’s what I bring to the table and that’s what I hope to showcase at the rookie camp and development camp.”Jordan Spence at the 2019 NHL Draft
Spence is one of the better offensive defensemen in the draft with good vision, hockey sense, and confidence with the puck. Given his rapid growth this season after being skipped in the QMJHL draft during his first year of eligibility, Spence has a lot of upside to his game, although the fact his skating is only above-average is a concern given his smaller size.
Outside of hockey, there were also a number of draft picks of Asian descent in other sports: Rui Hachimura was drafted 9th overall in the NBA draft and is the first Japanese-born player drafted in the first round; second-generation Korean-American Kyler Murray was drafted first overall in the NFL draft this year as well as 9th overall in the 2018 MLB Draft; and second-generation Chinese-American Taylor Rapp in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
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