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2011 NHL Entry Draft
2011 NHL Entry Draft Hats

NHL teams start to think small at draft

Saturday, 06.25.2011 / 3:59 PM / 2011 NHL Entry Draft

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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NHL teams start to think small at draft
With speed becoming more and more important, size was less of a consideration at this year's NHL Entry Draft, where 14 players under 5-foot-10 were chosen.
Sometimes, size doesn't really matter.

With NHL hockey becoming more and more of a speed game, scouts seem to be more in search of players who use their skates effectively rather than worrying about how tall they are when wearing them. Such was the case this weekend at the 2011 Entry Draft.

Fourteen out of the 210 players selected (6.7 percent) were listed at under 5-foot-10. That's a far cry from just before the work stoppage, when only four of 291 players were measured under 5-10.

Rocco Grimaldi (selected No. 33 by Florida) and John Gaudreau (No. 140, Calgary) were the shortest. Both were listed at 5-foot-6.

"I have a lot of respect for Rocco; he's an unbelievable player with a lot of skill and creativity," said forward Jonathan Miller, who was selected in the opening round by the New York Rangers (No. 15) on Friday night. "Playing on a line with him at the Under-18 World Championship made it easier for me and him. With the two of us, it was hard for the other team to stop. All I have to do is allow him to break into the puck and do his thing."

One of the NHL's best players is under 5-foot-10. Martin St. Louis, who was a Hart Trophy finalist this season after tallying 99 points (31 goals, 68 assists) in 82 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning, is listed as 5-foot-8. St. Louis has notched 90 or more points four times in his career and helped the Lightning win their lone Stanley Cup championship in 2004. He was never drafted.

Buffalo Sabres forward Nathan Gerbe had 16 goals and 15 assists in 64 games this season -- his first full NHL campaign. The Oxford, Mich., native is just 5-foot-5. Gerbe was Buffalo's fifth-round selection (No. 142) at the 2005 Entry Draft.

Grimaldi hopes to emulate that kind of success.

"It's great to always be the underdog and have people doubt you," Grimaldi told NHL.com. "I feel I could be a role model for kids my size -- not even in hockey, but in general. I could be a really good example for them on how I go about my business, not caring about what people say and how I live my life. I'm always thinking about the next generation under me and trying to help them out as well.

"The game has changed since the lockout; it's more of a high-end skilled game and smaller guys are making names for themselves in the League with (Martin) St. Louis and Nathan Gerbe," Grimaldi said. "That's great to see those guys having an impact. It's really good for me, being a small guy, and seeing how others are able to make an impact right away."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

NHL.com staff writer Mike Morreale contributed to this story