Often deemed too small by NHL scouts, undersized, but skilled, players often have a harder time convincing NHL executives to give them a chance at the pro level than let’s say a 6’4”, 220 pounds forward with lesser skills. The rigor of the 82-game NHL calendar take its toll on every player, and even more so on players with a smaller stature, as they tend to tire more easily over the long run.
However, as with everything there are always exceptions to the rule, and the ten players below, all under 5’10”, made sure to silence the detractors by proving to the world that undersized players can have successful careers in the NHL.
1. MARTIN ST-LOUIS, TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Vital statistics: 5’8″, 176 pounds
Never drafted, St-Louis started making an impact at the NHL level at the age of 27 in 2002-03. Since then, the speedy right-winger has averaged 33 goals and 53 assists for 86 points while missing only two games over eight seasons. Talk about durability! He has been named a Hart trophy finalist this season after scoring 31 goals and 68 assists for 99 points in 2010-11. One of the most spectacular player in the NHL, St-Louis won the Stanley Cup with the Lightning back in 2003-04.
2. DEREK ROY, BUFFALO SABRES
Vital statistics: 5’9″, 184 pounds
Despite missing 47 games this season with a torn left quadriceps muscle, the diminutive center managed to score 35 points in 35 games, an 82-point pace over a full season. Prior to this season, Roy had averaged 25 goals and 41 assists for 66 points in 77 games over five seasons. Thanks to great skating abilities and a great vision, he is an important cog of the Sabres’ offense along with Thomas Vanek, Drew Stafford and Jason Pominville.
3. MICHAEL CAMMALLERI, MONTREAL CANADIENS
Vital statistics: 5’9″, 182 pounds
Cammalleri, who had a down year for the Canadiens, scoring only 47 points in 67 games, was red-hot for Montreal during their seven-game series loss to Boston. The undersized left winger scored three goals and seven assists for ten points in seven games after scoring 13 goals and notching 19 points in 19 games during the 2009-10 Habs’ surprising playoff run. He has scored 25 goals or more in a season four times. His wrist shot is one of the most accurate in the NHL.
4. BRIAN GIONTA, MONTREAL CANADIENS
Vital statistics: 5’7″, 173 pounds
Named the Canadiens’ captain earlier this season, Gionta scored 29 goals and added 17 assists for 46 points in 82 games despite playing on a line with unproductive center Scott Gomez. Since the lock-out, the feisty right-winger has averaged 29 goals and 28 helpers for 57 points in 75 games. He has won the Stanley Cup with the NJ Devils in 2002-03. Despite his smallish size, Gionta is always ready to drive the net with energy and grit to bury a lose rebound past the goaltender.
5. BRAD MARCHAND, BOSTON BRUINS
Vital statistics: 5’9″, 183 pounds
Marchand was quite effective as a rookie this year, notching 21 goals and 20 assists for 41 points along with an impressive +25 plus/minus rating in 77 games with the Bruins. Playing on a line with veteran Mark Recchi and play-maker Patrice Bergeron, Marchand is a very good penalty killer and can play on the power play. The gritty left-winger has made his mark already in the playoffs, scoring four goals and adding six assists for ten points in ten games for Boston in the current playoffs.
6. TYLER ENNIS, BUFFALO SABRES
Vital statistics: 5’9″, 157 pounds
Another rookie, Ennis had a great first season with Buffalo, recording 20 goals and 29 assists for 49 points in 82 games. The shifty left-winger has been fairly consistent since making his NHL debut late late season. The speedster finished fourth in scoring among rookies in 2010-11 and he has a very bright future ahead of him.
7. SERGEI SAMSONOV, FLORIDA PANTHERS
Vital statistics: 5’8″, 188 pounds
Splitting last season between the Hurricanes and the Panthers, the nifty left-winger managed to score 13 goals and 40 points in 78 games without making much noise. Whether you like his style of play or not, Samsonov can be spectacular with the puck in the offensive zone. Consistency has been his biggest problem during his great NHL career, as Samsonov can disappear for several games in a row before heating up. He has scored 19 goals or more six times.
8. STEVE SULLIVAN, NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Vital statistics: 5’8″, 160 pounds
One year removed from a 51-point season, Sullivan’s season has been plagued by injuries, recording 22 points playing only 44 games. Since the lock-out, the brisk winger has only played more than 70 games once in a season. Sullivan, 36, has scored 60 points or more seven times, but because
of all the injuries he sustained during his career, it might be time for the veteran to hang his skates after the season.
9. NATHAN GERBE, BUFFALO SABRES
Vital statistics: 5’5″, 178 pounds
The smallest NHL player plays big! The quick center scored 16 goals and added 15 assists for 31 points in 64 games with Buffalo in his rookie season. The Sabres were 19-2-4 when he recorded a point in 2010-11. If he can be more consistent and get more ice-time from head coach Lindy Ruff, Gerbe could easily crack the 50-point mark next season as he has all the tools, except the size, to be a successful NHLer.
10. JORDIN TOOTOO, NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Vital statistics: 5’9″, 197 pounds
The Tootoo train hurts despite his smallish stature! Not know for his offensive prowess, Tootoo is a great agitator and bodychecker who likes to spark his teams by getting under his opponents’ skin. Tootoo played only 54 games this year, recording eight goals and ten assists for 18 points after has entering the NHL-NHLPA substance abuse and behavioral health program in late December. Since his return, Tooto has been a catalyst on the Predators’ third line, especially in the playoffs.
Honorable mentions: Francis Bouillon, David Desharnais, Mats Zuccarello-Aasen, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Chris Conner, Ryan Shannon, Scott Nichol
Think I missed someone or believe the above order is incorrect? Drop me a comment to express your opinion!
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About the Author: Working as a freelance sports writer and translator, Fred, 33, graduated from Laval University in Quebec City, earning a bachelor of translation in 2002. An avid fan of the Northeast division teams, he's also a long time fan of the Washington Capitals and the Montreal Canadiens. Fred also speaks fluently French and Spanish. http://twitter.com/FredPoulin98 www.traductions-quebec.com