Johnny Gaudreau has proven that smaller players with exceptional talent can excel in the National Hockey League.
In only two full seasons with the Calgary Flames after a career at Boston College, the five-foot-nine-inch tall Gaudreau has emerged as an offensive dynamo, finishing tied with Blake Wheeler and Joe Pavelski with 78 points last season. Only five players in the entire league had more points.
He could also act as a source of inspiration for Flames prospect Matthew Phillips, taken in the sixth round, 166th overall, by Calgary in last month’s NHL Draft.
Phillips is actually smaller than Gaudreau. He’s currently listed at five-foot-six-inches tall and 137 pounds. Yes. That’s 137 pounds.
Despite the lack of size, Phillips had 37 goals and 76 points in 72 games with the Victoria Royals in the rugged Western Hockey League.
“My first good look at him was at the World Juniors when he won gold [in 2012 with the United States],” said Phillips, as per NHL.com. “Every game I watched, he lit it up. Then I found out he was a Flames prospect. My eyes blew open there. I’ve been glued to his games ever since.
“I just like watching his focus. When he has the puck, I watch how creative he is. He doesn’t shy away from making the bold play with the puck that if it works, it’s high reward. Not just that, but his focus on the ice, from what I hear around the rink, is pretty special. I like watching his demeanor on the ice and how he approaches it all.”
Because of their respective but similar statures, Phillips has already garnered comparisons to Gaudreau, who went to the Flames in the fourth round of the 2011 draft.
“Goalies and forwards are kind of going in opposite directions but the game has changed a lot in the past 10 years with the new rules,” said Phillips, as per Global News.
“And it’s a faster pace of play and there’s more and more space for the small player.”
The Toronto Maple Leafs held on to Garret Sparks, signing him earlier this month to a two-way contract.
But they may not be done there, as they look to find someone to fill the role of back-up to Frederik Andersen.
On Sunday, a report from Expressen in Sweden — and put through Google Translate — began circulating that the Leafs are closing in on a deal with free agent goalie Jhonas Enroth, who turned 28 years old last month.
It’s one report and the team has not confirmed or announced anything. But it’s something to keep an eye on over the next few days.
Enroth posted a .922 save percentage last season with the L.A. Kings, appearing in only 16 games behind starter Jonathan Quick.
Signed to a one-year deal worth $1.25 million with the Kings, his playing time was a source of contention, however, because Enroth seemed to be under the impression he would play more than he did in L.A.
The back-up position in Toronto became available when the Leafs traded Jonathan Bernier to the Anaheim Ducks.
Related: UFA of the Day: Jhonas Enroth
After spending the last three seasons in the Buffalo Sabres organization, Tim Schaller wasn’t going to resist the opportunity to sign with the Boston Bruins.
A product of Providence College, the now 25-year-old Schaller, a center who provides size up the middle at six-foot-two-inches and 219 pounds, signed a one-year, two-way deal worth $600,000 at the NHL level with the Bruins as a free agent at the beginning of July.
“We had probably about 10-12 teams calling on one day,” Schaller told the Boston Globe.
“About halfway through the phone calls, Don Sweeney of the Boston Bruins called. At that moment, I almost told my agent, ‘Why take another phone call? Why not just say yes to the Bruins right away?’ It’s a good opportunity to have to play in Boston. All the numbers worked out perfectly to where it was impossible to say no to them.”
The move helped to provide depth up the middle for the Bruins.
Schaller has put up decent numbers in the minors, with 43 points in 65 games with the Rochester Americans in the 2014-15 season. In 35 NHL games with Buffalo, he had two goals and five points.
However, earning a spot on the Bruins roster could be difficult.
Backes can play wing in addition to center.
“Boston was a good fit,” said Schaller. “We think I’m better than the prospects, so we thought it was a good fit. Hopefully I can beat out a bunch of guys for a job.”
It began gaining momentum well before Connor McDavid even finished his rookie season, the prospect that the young phenom had what it takes to become captain of the Edmonton Oilers.
Wayne Gretzky had his say, in an interview with the National Post last season.
“I have a great deal of respect for him. In my point of view, I think he’s mature enough that he can handle it at any age,” said The Great One, the Oilers captain when that franchise was a dynasty in the 1980s.
McDavid’s highly anticipated rookie season was interrupted with a shoulder injury, but he returned to play in 45 games, with 48 points. He was named a finalist for the Calder Trophy, and there was plenty of healthy debate for his case to be the top freshman in the league.
As his season continued and then ended, the talk of McDavid’s possible captaincy in Edmonton has persisted. The Oilers, who traded Taylor Hall last month, didn’t have a captain this past season.
Connor McDavid will be named as the Oilers’ captain at the age of 19 next fall, one of the items that was deduced at general manager Peter Chiarelli’s season-ending press briefing Sunday. Asked if his team would have a captain next season where this year it did not, the GM responded quickly: “I would think so, that we would have a captain next year.”
McDavid, the first overall pick in 2015, doesn’t turn 20 years old until Jan. 13 of next year.
He’s already the face of the Oilers and perhaps soon, the NHL, too. He certainly doesn’t seem to shy away from the potential of one day being named the Oilers captain.
“Obviously. If I was ever the captain at any point I think it would be one of the greatest honors and one of the accomplishments that I would definitely take the most seriously,” McDavid told the Toronto Sun.
“I don’t want to comment on it too much, but obviously it would be an unbelievable feeling.”