Boom or Bust with Small Men

By Darryl Dobbs


Do you ever see any small men have a successful career 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 grabs the 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 a player that weighs in at under 185 pounds and stands less than 5’9, there are three certainties. First, you can add a couple of years to the norm to when he will break out offensively. An average player might be 23 or 24 when he breaks out, and a smaller player would 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. 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? We saw how Martin St. Louis did in Calgary on the third line, just imagine if he was thrown out there for twenty minutes a game with Jarome Iginla! Unfortunately for Calgary fans, they only tried something like that in Tampa Bay. The latest small player to break out is 5’7, 175 pound Brian Gionta of the New Jersey Devils. He has ten 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 on this guy has all the tools and is 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, and eight minutes of ice time per game. He was a healthy scratch seven times. He was waived this week and picked up by the St. Louis Blues. A team that is probably the most desperate of all NHL teams to add some offensive depth to the lineup. He will get all the ice time in the world, and if he can put up a few points in his first ten games there, then 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 leagues…

Farm Report: The Los Angeles Kings are really on a role with their offensive prospects. Not only have Michael Cammalleri and Dustin Brown fit in seamlessly and another home-grown talent has busted out in a big way (Alexander Frolov), but 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…

For more articles from

Darryl Dobbs check out his webpage at DobberHockey.com


24 Responses to Boom or Bust with Small Men

  1. Dobber says:

    Further to this – this article was originally at The Hockey News – Fantasy Pool Look on Dec. 02.

    After picking up zero points in 11 games with Nashville, Gamache has six points in nine games in St. Louis.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that Gamache produces when two of the Blues’ biggest guns are out of the lineup, but not one. When Cajanek and Tkachuk are gone, Gamache picks up a point. If Cajanek and Young are out, Gamache gets a point. If ONLY Tkachuk, or if ONLY Cajanek are out, then Gamache is pointless. That’s not a scientific analysis, that’s just off the cuff…

  2. 19AVSFANFoLIFE19 says:

    The small hockey player does not get a second look unless he forces scouts to take a second look.

    that is probably the most intelligent statement i have ever seen written for this website. and i have had the fortune of seeing gamache play and i like his talent and i wouldnt disagree by saying he could be the next little guy. but out of curiosty how tall is guillame latendresse?

  3. dcz28 says:

    I use to watch Gamache with Val D’or and he has a lot of talent and i think he could be the next St Louis if he is given a good chance to prove himself in the new NHL with lots of ice time

    He had great chemistry with Brandon Reid i think it was in 2000-01 season so maybe the Blues should look into trading for Reid from Vancouver to reunite the duo since the Canucks are not playing Reid

  4. dcz28 says:

    Latendresse is 6’2 222 pounds and is considered a future power forward so he is not a small guy

  5. Dobber says:

    Great idea, except that Reid is small as well – the smurf line idea gets even less attention then the small man! Too bad, because I like Reid, and there’s room in St. Louis for him. I do like that thought, though…

  6. Labrosse says:

    remember that name, Jonathan Bellemare. There’s not a lot of chances that he make it to the big league, but if get a real chance I think he could surprise a lot of people. He played with shawinigan’s a couple years ago in the QJMHL and puts on 124 point in 69 games in his 19 years old season before being injured in is last one. But at 5’6 160 pound…. the chance to be draft were very slim. He’s now 23 I think, I would love to see a team give him a chance, after all he almost won the scoring championship in junior at 19

  7. Labrosse says:

    and by the way he was playing with jason pominville and had pretty much the same numbers as him and now pomminville is playing for buffalo and he’s not doing bad, on pace for 15g 25a 40p in 60 games…

  8. 19AVSFANFoLIFE19 says:

    yea i didnt know how big he was but if he does what he did in the preseason in the future. oh man montreal is going to score quite a bit.

  9. rojoke says:

    There is one other trait that determines how “little guys” are assessed, especially at draft time, and that’s birthplace. Over the past number of years, smaller players from Europe have been treated differently than those from North America, a trend that bothers many people, both fans and the media. What is it about a 5′ 10″ forward from Turku or Ornskoldsvok that puts him above a 5′ 10″ forward from Timmins or Prince Albert? It seems that scouts will put less importnace on size in European players than those on this side of the pond, when everything else is relatively the same.

    If a player has 30+ goals, 80+ points in his draft year, while playing in Europe, he can be 5′ 10″ and get drafted in the early rounds. If he played in the CHL or US college, then he’d be “only 5′ 10″” and slip to a third round or later, unless he’s got a franchise tag on his name.

  10. wizard36 says:

    Good job on the Brian Gionta comment. He is playing great right now on a team that is having issues on offense. I can’t believe people have the nerve to say he’s a third liner on a good team. When Elias comes back, I think they’ll team up and make some good things happen for their team.

    As for the rest of the article, I think your spot on. I love nothing more than to see a 5’9″ guy grinding it out, putting the puck in the net , and proving it’s not the size of your body but your but the size of your heart (cheesy, I know). I had a hunch before the season started that the smaller, faster players were going to be the ones that really benefited from the rule changes.

  11. dcz28 says:

    I think they made the right choice by not rushing him to the NHL but he seems like he will be a good player for years to come when he does join the Habs

  12. dcz28 says:

    Your right Reid is not big either and that would make a small line but maybe if they put a power forward with them or grinder who is good in the corners and physical it could work since speed is a big advantage in the new NHL …St Louis and his buddy Perrin didn’t light it up either when Tampa put them together so who knows but if the Blues keep losing and Vancouver doesn’t ask for too much for Reid i think it could be something for them to try

  13. bruinexpert says:

    For small players, I really like Derek Roy in Buffalo, he’s been playing very well there considering his games played and ice time. He won rookie of the year in the OHL and put up really good numbers in his rookie campaign in the AHL, he seems to excell quickly at every level he’s played in and he’s showed thus far that he can keep up in the big league

  14. Resmo112 says:

    Kris Draper has really only had one great offensive season, and he’s under 6ft and never really scores much. great grinder career. Also Jiri Hudler could be the next great small man.

  15. thatleafsguy says:

    Kyle Wellwood, the protypical North American small player. A 5’10” player “on skates” with an abundance of talent, 6 goals 13 assists for 19 points and a +9 rating in 33 gp, while only averaging 11:01 minutes of ice time in his NHL rookie year. This guy needs more ice time and a better line mate then Wade Belak or Tie Domi.

  16. Resmo112 says:

    yeah talk about doing it all yourself.

  17. dcz28 says:

    So could Grigorenko…can’t wait to see him play next year with the Wings

  18. Resmo112 says:

    If they can reach a deal with him, they have til June 1st. he’s also a little bigger and plays more of a power foward style of play. so i don’t think of him as small, but you’re right and i should have thought ofit earlier he’s only 5’10 or 11

  19. dcz28 says:

    On hockey’s future he is listed as 5’10 180…i think the Wings will sign him and they should since he is one of their top prospects… the cap will probably go up next year so it shouldn’t be a problem to fit him in

    I was glad to hear that Kronvall has started to skate even if he is still not that close to returning but when he does it should give the Wings a good boost as he really impressed me in the pre-season

    I was also glad to hear Liv being named to team Sweden even if he probably wont play a game i just wonder if the Wings will ever bring him over and give him a shot although they do have a couple of good young goalies in Howard, Drew MacIntyre and Logan Koopmans which seem to be ahead of him on the depth charts

  20. Resmo112 says:

    Other than Howard I think Liv is their second best prospect, MAYBE macdonald but Macdonald will probably be a career backup, success in the AHL doesn’t always translate to NHL success especially in goal. The Wings have a lot of depth in their goaltending pipeline, which is a GREAT problem to have as well. I don’t know he’ll probably be given an equal shot at starting, statistically he’s better than both of those other goalies, but they’re playing at higher levels. Hockeysfuture i think really under rates Howard at 7.5 they put him as a future prospect lower than Sean Burke. he’s already AS GOOD as sean burke whatever the wife beater sucks.

  21. thatleafsguy says:

    i dont quite understand what you mean by that

  22. shapter07 says:

    I dont see why they dont give him some pp time…. god they got khavanov getting minutes on the powerplay why dont they put a forward back there (O’neill or Allison) and play wellwood. If he was getting the same ice time as crosby and ovechkin he would probably have as many points as them, especially if he got pp time

  23. Ace_Bailey says:

    I agree, I’d love to see him breakout. And it’s not like he’s had the same linemates. He’s been tossed around quite a bit. This kid will blossom in the next two or three years into something special.

  24. Resmo112 says:

    his line mates suck, he has to “do it all himself” sorry about the confusion.

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