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.”