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Louis not letting lack of size short his hockey dreams

by Matt Kalman

BOSTON -- It’s impossible to avoid talking about size when referring to Miami forward Anthony Louis.

The 19-year-old Chicago Blackhawks 2013 sixth-round draft pick is listed at 5-foot-7, 160 pounds. He is the shortest and lightest player at the USA Hockey evaluation camp for the United States World Junior Team this week by at least two inches and 12 pounds, according to the camp roster. And we all know how generous those official rosters can be when it comes to the smaller guys.

After all these years, though, Louis doesn’t let discussion of his dimensions bother him.

“I mean it’s in one ear, out the other,” he said. “I just want to prove people wrong in that aspect.”

Despite his diminutive stature, Louis has been a big part of USA Hockey in recent years. For two seasons he was part of the United States National Team Development Program, where he flaunted his offensive skill with 47 points in 56 games. As a Miami freshman last season he kept on rolling with 12 goals and 25 points in 36 games.

This season with the RedHawks he had 14 points in 16 games before departing for the U.S. camp at Walter Brown Arena on the campus of Boston University this week. The team that is chosen from the 30 players in camp will compete later this month at the IIHF World Junior Championship in Toronto and Montreal.

Louis has continued to impress the U.S. brass with his offensive skills, including a nifty shootout goal at the end of practice Thursday. There’s definitely no prejudice toward Louis because of his size.

“He’s come in and I would say ... how he has shown up, he’s shown that he wants to make the team. And I think he’s had three very good days,” coach Mark Osiecki said.

Around the time Louis was hitting his stride and beginning to realistically think he had a future at a high level of hockey, the Blackhawks selected Patrick Kane No. 1 overall at the NHL Draft in 2007. Kane, a Calder and Conn Smythe Trophy winner during a prolific NHL career, is generously listed at 5-foot-11, 181 pounds these days.

Louis said that draft was a clear message to him that he could make an impact in the sport he loved. But he had to make an even greater commitment than others.

“I knew that if I wanted to make it, I had to push myself harder than most guys because I’m obviously smaller,” he said.

Although it’s still difficult for players of Louis’ stature to get an opportunity to showcase their talents and make it in the League, recent seasons have brought an increase in smaller players at all levels. And Louis doesn’t just model his game after the smaller guys. He cited Boston Bruins forward Reilly Smith, who also attended Miami, as an inspiration.

Louis said he continually finds tricks of the trade that help him overcome the size difference between him and most opponents.

“I try to keep the D man honest, or whoever’s on me honest. You use a low center of gravity. I don’t want to stay tall because then it’s easier to catch me,” he said. “And I want to keep my feet moving and the puck away from them obviously, protecting it.”

Louis prides himself on his conditioning and ability to wear out opponents, who can get tired of chasing him down while he keeps on skating hard.

Louis is hard to miss on the ice because the other players tower over him and his hair sticks out the back of his helmet. But to represent the U.S. against the world’s best players younger than 20 years old, he has to show the brass a well-rounded game. He said that in addition to his strong work ethic and creative playmaking his “defensive game has improved tremendously throughout the past few years.”

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