2011 Home Hardware CHL-NHL Top Prospects Game

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.

Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

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The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

Johansen calls trade rumblings ‘weird,’ says relationship with Torts is ‘great’

Ryan Johansen
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One day after reports surfaced of Ryan Johansen being at the center of trade talks, all parties involved from Columbus did what they’re supposed to do — downplay the situation.

You can read the denials in full over at the Dispatch, but here’s the gist:

— Johansen said the rumors were “weird” and that he’s “never seen it before.” He also said there were no issues between him and head coach John Tortorella, calling the relationship “great.”

— GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t address the report, nor would Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.

— Johansen added he hasn’t spoken to any of Columbus’ management about the trade rumblings.

So there’s that. What’s next?

At this stage of the game, it’s hard not to think about another Overhardt client, Kyle Turris.

Turris, you’ll recall, spent four (mostly) stormy years with the Coyotes before his trade out to Ottawa was orchestrated. Turris eventually told GM Don Maloney “this is not going to work out” with the club, and he was gone.

So, consider the similarities now:

— Turris was 22 at the time of the trade, with four years and 137 games under his belt.

— Johansen is 23, with five years and 291 games.

— Both had contentious contract holdouts with their respective clubs.

— Both are Overhardt guys.

— The Turris trade happened after the Coyotes went from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Tippett as head coach.

— Johansen is already on his third head coach (Scott Arniel, Todd Richards, Tortorella).

For now, these are all coincidences (or a forced narrative, depending what you think of the author).

And, of course, the one big — big — difference between the two is that, at the time of his trade, Turris wasn’t as good or established a player as Johansen currently is. Therefore, logic suggests any Johansen trade would be a lot more blockbuster-y and, therefore, probably more complex.

And as we know, complex deals aren’t easy to pull off.

Flyers’ Gagner to miss another week after Malone hit

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The nasty blow Sam Gagner took in Monday’s game against Carolina will keep him on the shelf for a little bit.

On Wednesday, Flyers GM Ron Hextall said the club expected Gagner to be out around a week with injuries suffered on the hit, delivered by ‘Canes forward Brad Malone (per the Inquirer).

Gagner suffered a fairly significant facial laceration, which forced him from the game entirely. He didn’t practice on Tuesday and, in a corresponding move, the Flyers called up Colin McDonald from the AHL to fill Gagner’s spot on the roster.

This is the second facial injury Gagner’s suffered in recent years. He’d previously had his jaw broken by an errant Zack Kassian high stick, while he was with the Oilers and Kassian the Canucks.

Prior to getting hurt, Gagner had two goals and five points in 18 games, averaging just under 12 minutes per night.

‘It’s absolutely not true’ — Lemieux denies report of ‘big falling out’ with Crosby

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 5:  Sidney Crosby #87 and Mario Lemieux #66 of the Pittsburgh Penguins share a few words during a break in action against the New Jersey Devils in their NHL opening night game at the Continental Airlines Arena on October 5, 2005 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  The Devils won 5-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Well, that didn’t take long.

Just hours after Matthew Barnaby went on the radio and said he’d heard that Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux had had a “big falling out,” Lemieux came out and denied it.

“It’s absolutely not true,” said Lemieux, per the club’s Twitter account. “It’s silly.”

Today marked the second time in less than two weeks that the Penguins have been forced do some damage control.

Last week, the Penguins insisted that they weren’t actually “mad at each other,” as Evgeni Malkin had put it after a bad loss to New Jersey.

“He did not mean we are mad at each other,” said Crosby. “He meant we are frustrated.”