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Gaudreau's success gives boost to pint-sized prospects

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- Big on skill? Short on size?

Johnny Gaudreau might help give you a boost.

Figuratively speaking, of course.

And while suggesting the mite-sized magician has completely changed the draft philosophy of the Calgary Flames might be overstating his impact, the emergence of Gaudreau as an NHL all-star so quickly into his professional career has helped eliminate the second-guessing when it comes to plucking pint-sized prospects from the NHL Draft process.

“You’re always worried about size, but if you take away the size and emphasize what a player does good … that’s a foundation to an organizational approach,” said Tod Button, director of scouting for the Flames. “Lets not find out the negatives on one player and what he can’t do. Lets find out what he can do, and if those assets and that skill set is translatable.

“One of the biggest things (Calgary GM) Brad Treliving emphasizes is lets find out what these guys do well and if its translatable and if it is, lets take them for what they are … not what they may not be.”

It seemed to work when the Flames plucked Gaudreau in the fourth round (No. 104) in the 2011 NHL Draft following a 36-goal, 72-point effort with Dubuque of the United States Hockey League.

Despite the fact he was listed, likely generously, at 5-foot-6 and 137 pounds.

But he had first round talent, told Button.

“It emphasizes that skills and skating are keys to being an NHL player, and if you have those in spades as Johnny did … and I know buzzwords are analytics, and we did analysis back then,” he said. “We were doing it for years in the early 2000’s…all these kinds of different stuff.

“You try to refine that process. We put Johnny’s numbers on the board, just plain hockey numbers … they were top-10 on our draft list that year.”

Top-10.

Twenty-nine teams passed.

Calgary didn’t, calling an audible to nab the Salem, NJ native.

“When you talk about Johnny Gaudreau, he’s got some elite abilities,” Treliving said. “The mind he has for the game, the skill level … when you talk about those players and the way the game is, the way some of the smaller players have performed, it shows that there is a place in our game for smaller players. You’ll always find room for good players regardless of stature. But you also have to be cognizant of your team building. It takes all different sorts to help you win.”

In a recent re-draft by NHL.com, Gaudreau jumped from a fourth round selection to the first overall pick.

Understandable, considering he’s scored 55 goals and 143 points through the first 160 games of his career, including a sixth-place finish in the NHL scoring race in 2015-16.

A Calder Trophy nomination after his first year.

Two all-star game appearances in two years.

A spot on Team North America at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

“You’re looking for good players,” Treliving said. “They come in all shapes and sizes. The mix of your team … you’ve got to be cognizant of that. In order to win you can’t have too much of one thing. You need a blend. You need different skill-sets. The one thing that’s clear…if you’re a smaller player, in some cases, you need traits in some respect whether it be speed or hockey sense or skill or skating or whatever it may be.”

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