Short man complex? Five little guys proving the critics wrong

Hockey writers around North America are contractually obligated to compare every single hockey prospect under 5’10” to Martin St. Louis. It seems like when a player is small and talented, scouts are automatically trained to look for reasons the prospect will never make it to the NHL level. Sometimes, they don’t even need another reason; even if they’re productive against other prospects, scouts will shy away from a player because it’s so difficult to compete against the larger players of the NHL.

Here are five of the smallest prospects who were drafted this year. Each and every one of these players has been told they are too small; yet each and every one of them continues to succeed.

Rocco Grimaldi (5’6” – 163 pounds)
Florida Panthers – 2nd round, 33rd overall

Grimaldi is a first round talent who slipped to the Florida Panthers (#33 overall) on the second day of the draft because of his size. Perhaps the most electrifying player in the entire draft, International Scouting Services rated him as the best skater and one of the best puck-handlers available. In a telling comment, Harvey Fialkov of the Sun Sentinel explains: “the scouts agree that if he was 5-10 his skills would’ve made him the overall top pick ahead of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.” Next season Grimaldi plans on continuing his development at University of North Dakota. He may not be able to improve on his size, but if he can improve on his skills, the NHL won’t be able to ignore him.

Ryan Murphy (5’10” – 166 pounds)
Carolina Hurricanes – 1st round, 12th overall

At 5’10” and 166 pounds, Ryan Murphy would be undersized whether he played up front or back on defense. Since he’s a first round blueliner (and one of the smallest picked in the draft), he must have some spectacular skills to get scouts attention. He does. Murphy is one of the best skaters in the entire draft, he’s the best pure offensive defenseman, and has a booming shot from the point. The best NHL comparison for Murphy is that he’s like a smaller, faster Mike Green. He still struggles in his own zone, but he’s such a dynamic player, the Carolina Hurricanes were willing to overlook his shortcomings.

John Gaudreau (5’6” – 137 pounds)
Calgary Flames – 4th round, 104th overall

Selected in the 4th round by the Calgary Flames, Gaudreau was the smallest player selected in the 2011 Entry Draft. Not surprisingly, he’s a great skater who thrives when the game resembles a pond hockey game. He was able to score 36 goals in 60 games this season in the USHL; we’ll see if he can step up his game next season as he’s already committed to Northeastern University for the 2011-12 season.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau (5’9” – 163 pounds)
Ottawa Senators – 4th round, 96th overall

Pageau is a little different that most of the smallish prospects that catch the scouts’ eyes. Usually the undersized prospects have lightning fast speed that makes them impossible to ignore, but Pageau doesn’t fall into that category. He’s skating is good—not great, but certainly not bad. The quality that sets him apart is that despite his size, he’s willing to go into the dirty areas to do whatever his team needs to win. This year in the QMJHL, he managed 32 goals and 79 points in only 67 games. The Senators will let him continue to develop in Gatineau, but if he continues to produce he could be an exciting player that the organization takes a look at in a few years.

Shane McColgan (5’8” – 165 pounds)
New York Rangers – 5th round, 134th overall

McColgan is the quintessential example of a player who drops simply because of his size. He’s an elite playmaker who finished 2nd in the WHL Rookie of the Year voting in 2009, behind Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Even though he’s an undersized, electrifying player, he’s still strong on his skates and isn’t easily knocked off the puck. Not only that, he’s not afraid to mix it up when he’s protecting his teammates. If a player with all of McColgan’s skill and heart was in a 6’1” frame, he would have been selected at the top of the first round.

If you’re still looking around for more information about this year’s draft, check out our NHL Draft Headquarters.

Making an impression: Sergachev has ‘NHL written all over him’

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Mikhail Sergachev has, over the summer, stated his belief he can play in the NHL this season.

He had a small taste of NHL action last season, appearing in four games for Montreal — the team that selected him ninth overall in 2016 — before getting sent back to junior and then being traded in June to Tampa Bay, as part of a blockbuster involving Jonathan Drouin to the Habs.

Well, Sergachev made a statement Wednesday in his preseason debut for the Lightning.

He scored once. He also played more than 22 minutes, which led all Lightning players on the night. That included time on the power play and penalty kill. If he was looking to make a favorable impression, to show that he belongs at the NHL level when the regular season begins, this seems to be another step in that direction.

“You watch this kid skate, shoot, stickhandle, he’s got NHL written all over him,” Tampa Bay’s associate coach Rick Bowness told the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we’ve got to give him experience. How much can he handle?”

There is competition on the blue line, with eight defensemen under contract in Tampa Bay for this season. That includes Sergachev, who is still only 19 years old. After getting sent back to junior last season, he recorded 43 points in 50 games with Windsor and then won the Memorial Cup that spring. That said, he’s made it a point of saying going back to junior “is not an option” for him.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Mikhail Sergachev

Report: Lupul will have ‘independent medical exam’

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Joffrey Lupul issued a statement Wednesday, saying he wouldn’t seek a second medical opinion after the Maple Leafs announced he didn’t pass his training camp physical.

A day later, reports have surfaced that the 33-year-old forward will, in fact, undergo another, independent medical test.

That is according to James Mirtle of The Athletic:

Earlier this week, Lupul made accusations against the Maple Leafs on Instagram.

“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per a screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”

Lupul, who didn’t pass his physical for a second year in a row, issued an apology yesterday. But those comments — which have since been deleted — seem to have grabbed the attention of the league.

Darren Dreger of TSN added to that, saying it’s the NHL pursuing a second medical opinion on this matter.

“The National Hockey League has that right to pursue the second opinion. That’s exactly what they’re engaging in right now,” Dreger reported Thursday.

“The reasoning behind it is because of the comment that Lupul made on social media. I’ll go back a year ago. The league didn’t step in a year ago but Lupul stayed quiet at that point. So they want to make sure — ‘They’ being the National Hockey League — that the medical evaluation from the Toronto Maple Leafs is 100 per cent above the board.”

Team USA won’t include NHL draft-eligible prospects at 2018 Olympics

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) General manager Jim Johannson has ruled out the possibility of the U.S. men’s hockey team having NHL draft-eligible prospects competing at the Winter Olympics in February.

Johannson tells The Associated Press he doesn’t view anyone from the 18-and-younger pool of prospects capable of cracking the projected lineup of non-NHL players, many of whom are opening this season playing in Europe.

USA Hockey’s assistant executive director says he’s also targeting a number of established college players, and would not rule out keeping a spot or two open for members of the U.S. team competing at the World Junior Championships this winter.

Johansson spoke in Buffalo, New York, on Thursday, where he is attending USA Hockey’s sixth annual All-American Prospects game. The game features the top 42 U.S.-born players eligible to be selected in the NHL draft in June.

Report: Former NHL referee Devorski to stop by Jets camp

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There is heightened focus on penalties right now and the Winnipeg Jets have taken the step of bringing former NHL referee Paul Devorski to training camp for help.

The league is cracking down on slashes and faceoff infractions right now, although according to Sportsnet, Devorski’s influence at Jets camp will go beyond just those two calls.

From Sportsnet:

The retired NHL referee will be at training camp on Friday where he will officiate the team during battle drills to give Jets players a better sense of how to stay within the rules.

NHL teams reaching out to the league to consult on officiating is not new, but having a referee work on-ice with a team is a less common step.

Currently many NHL teams are consulting with the league over more hot-button issues like slashing and faceoff violations, but the Jets focus with Devorski will be on past issues.

Around the league, it will be interesting to see if there is an increase in the number of penalties called, especially early on, and if so, the possible impact that will have on the games once the regular season gets going next month.

Per Michael Traikos of the National Post, there had been 91 slashing penalties called through 19 exhibition games in which real-time statistics were kept prior to Wednesday’s slate of games.

“It definitely changes how you have to defend. Those reactionary slashes of the stick, taps to the hands, are so ingrained in a defenceman,” Eric Gryba told Sportsnet. “If they stay as rigid on the rules as they are right now… the whole makeup, landscape of the D-corps is going to change, from top to bottom. Everyone is going to have to be a better skater to defend.”

The new tweak on faceoffs has also garnered some critics. Like Brad MarchandHe isn’t a fan.

“The slashing [penalties] is one thing, but this face-off rule is an absolute joke. That’s how you ruin the game of hockey by putting that in there. They’re going to have to do something about that because we can’t play all year like that,” Marchand told CSNNE earlier this week.

“Basically you have to be a statue. You can’t move. It takes away from the center iceman. I think there was even a play [in the game I was watching] last night where a penalty was called on a 4-on-4 before play on the first penalty had even started because of a draw.”

While the Jets are seeking the knowledge of a seasoned official to help them stay out of the penalty box beyond slashing and faceoff violations, it seems the entire league is in for quite a learning experience over these next few weeks.