Do you ever see any small men have successful careers spent entirely on the fourth line as a grinder?
Of course not. Even Stu Barnes had his offensive years where he was an upper-tier pool pick.
The small hockey player does not get a second look unless he forces scouts to take a second look.
His defensive checking abilities aren’t what grab attention; it’s his dazzling moves, his brilliant hockey sense and his off-the-charts offensive numbers.
Even then, it doesn’t guarantee a shot at the big time.
When you draft a smaller player – and by that I mean someone who weighs less than 185 pounds and stands less than 5-foot-9 – there are two certainties.
First, you can add a couple of years to when he will break out offensively. An average player may be 23 or 24 when he hits stride, but a smaller player will be closer to 25 or 26.
Second, it is boom or bust. A small player can’t prove himself on the fourth line with eleven minutes of ice time. He needs first-line ice time.
Steve Sullivan put up decent numbers playing with Toronto when he was up on the first line with Mats Sundin, but as soon as he was placed with Tie Domi and Kris King he understandably faltered. In Chicago and Nashville, Sullivan is strictly first line, and thus performs very well. Did Paul Kariya break in with the Mighty Ducks as a fourth-liner?
Martin St. Louis didn’t show much in Calgary on the third line, but imagine if he was thrown out there for 20 minutes a game with Jarome Iginla. Unfortunately for Calgary fans, he only got that opportunity in Tampa Bay.
The latest small player to break out is 5-foot-7, 175-pound Brian Gionta of the New Jersey Devils. He has 10 points in his last six games and 27 points in 24 games overall.
My hunch on the next big small man? Simon Gamache.
I’ve been wrong before, but my hunch is this guy has all the tools and is finally in the right situation. He has been lighting up the AHL for the last three years and has only had cups of coffee in the NHL. This season’s numbers in Nashville: eleven games, no points, in eight minutes of ice time per game. He was a healthy scratch seven times.
Gamache was waived this week and picked up by the St. Louis Blues, a team that is probably the most desperate of all NHL clubs looking to add offensive depth to their lineup. He will get all the ice time in the world, and if he can put up a few points in his first 10 games he will have taken advantage of his best shot at stardom.
Like all small-sized prospects, he’ll either be a star or he’ll disappear into the netherworld we call the minor leaguesÂ…
Injuries, from a fantasy pool perspective: Gilbert Brule is injured again, this time with a broken leg. The Columbus youngster is following in the footsteps of Nathan Horton, who followed in the footsteps of Marian Gaborik, Steve Rucchin, Alexei Zhamnov, and so on down the list. These players have been a fantasy owner’s bane: so much potential, yet only playing enough games to realize it maybe once every three or four yearsÂ…Saku Koivu’s injury allows Andrei Kostitsyn owners a brief look at their prospect in MontrealÂ…Martin Havlat’s shoulder injury means a second look at Brandon Bochenski for Ottawa fans.
Farm Report: The Los Angeles Kings are really on a role with their offensive prospects. Not only have Mike Cammalleri and Dustin Brown fit in seamlessly and another homegrown talent busted out in a big way (Alexander Frolov), there are others in the pipeline. Jeff Tambellini picked up 20 points in 12 games for Manchester of the AHL and was named rookie of the month. That earned him a recall to the big club.
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