Does size matter? College hockey's 'little guys' have an uphill battle

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Players like Johnny Gaudreau and Kevin Roy don't have the prototypical NHL body, but it hasn't stopped them from being top scorers in college.

Johnny Gaudreau and Kevin Roy have all the skills and tools in the world, but they're both bound by the same affliction: height, or lack thereof.

The two standout Hockey East forwards have plenty in common; Gaudreau has recorded 1.29 points per game in his career, while Roy's output sits at 1.26.They both are proficient passers, great skaters, and NHL prospects—Gaudreau a fourth round pick in 2011 by the Flames, and Roy a fourth round pick in 2012 by the Ducks.

The immediate comparisons can be made to the likes of the most recent NHL "little guys" who have succeeded despite their slight of stature: Martin St. Louis, Brian Gionta (a former Eagle himself), or even a Patrick Kane, to name a few. (Although Kane towers at 5-foot-10, and there's no use comparing anyone to the supremely talented Kane.)

Gaudreau (5-foot-8) and Roy (5-foot-10) both do all of the things an effective small player is expected to do. They're both incredibly quick, good skaters. They both can create for themselves with the puck, and despite their size, do a good job of not getting knocked off the puck. And they both have very high hockey IQ's, and are capable of creating for their linemates.

When a smaller player succeeds at the NHL level, they're generally the exception, and not the rule. Roy has struggled at times this season when opponents have made him a point of emphasis in their gameplans, and Gaudreau has consistently been grouped with some of the best players in college hockey in his three year tenure.

There's no denying the talent both of these players enjoy. On any given night fans are guaranteed to see them dance their way around defenders, stickhandling as if the puck was on a string. With possession becoming such a big point of emphasis in today's NHL, both of these forwards fit that mold.

"It's just been a really fun three years here so far, and I'm extremely grateful that I've gotten to play with some great players over the past two, three years here so far," Gaudreau said earlier this year after recording his 100th career point.

It could be Gaudreau's last year on Chestnut Hill, but there's been no indication as to whether he plans to stay in college or go pro. Roy will keep on developing at Northeastern for at last another year alongside a young Huskies core that will push him to get better.

When both players do decide to go the professional route, they'll consistently go up against very capable defensemen. The spike in competition will be a test of both their skills, and their abilities to hold up against bigger, more physically capable players. In the meantime, the two offensively gifted forwards will continue instrumental roles on their respective college teams in short order.

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