OHL prospects shrink­ing, but ...

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - TERI PECOSKIE

This year’s OHL draft class was the small­est — short­est and light­est, that is — in at least a decade, even though the league’s goal­tend­ing prospects are get­ting larger.

The Spec­ta­tor found that play­ers cho­sen in last month’s pri­or­ity se­lec­tion were just over five-foot-11 and 167 pounds on av­er­age, or roughly half an inch shorter and four pounds lighter than the 10-year norm.

For­wards and de­fence­men were also the small­est they have been in any year since at least 2008 (at around five-foot-11 and 164 pounds and six feet and 171 pounds, re­spec­tively), while goalies were big­ger than usual at just north of six feet and 176 pounds.

The size of play­ers in this year’s draft is just part of a larger trend. After re­main­ing rel­a­tively sta­ble be­tween 2008 and 2014, the av­er­age height and weight of for­wards and de­fence­men has ticked down­ward. The size of goal­tenders, how­ever, has been grow­ing for 10 years or more.

Steve Staios, the Hamil­ton Bull­dogs pres­i­dent and gen­eral man­ager, said he wasn’t sur­prised. Since the NHL lock­out in 200405 (and the rule changes to pro­mote scor­ing that fol­lowed), the game — in­clud­ing the size of its play­ers — has been chang­ing.

“I think you see now the em­pha­sis on skill and abil­ity,” he added. “It’s not as much of a de­ter­rent for teams when they’re build­ing their teams and when they’re draft­ing to look at their size and use it as a real knock against them be­cause there are un­der­sized play­ers that are highly ef­fec­tive not only at our level but in the pros as well.” The num­bers back him up. Ac­cord­ing to a 2015 story in the Hockey News, NHL play­ers tipped the scales at just over 206 pounds on av­er­age in the sea­son after the lock­out. In the years since, how­ever, the av­er­age weight has dropped by more than five pounds.

Like Staios, Joe Birch wasn’t shocked.

“My ini­tial thought would be that it’s re­lated to skat­ing and skills and abil­ity,” the OHL’s se­nior di­rec­tor of player devel­op­ment and spe­cial events said when asked about the find­ings by the news­pa­per.

He also sug­gested a pos­si­ble con­nec­tion be­tween player size and age, ask­ing if there is a chance this year’s draft class is smaller be­cause it was born later in the year.

The short an­swer to Birch’s ques­tion is prob­a­bly not. The Spec broke down the last 10 years of draft data to find a smaller than nor­mal per­cent­age of play­ers se­lected in 2017 were born in the first six months of the year. But the pat­tern doesn’t hold in other drafts in­clud­ing ’13, when av­er­age player size peaked. That year, an lower pro­por­tion of play­ers — 71 per cent com­pared to 75 per cent on av­er­age — were born be­tween Jan­uary and June. Back to Hamil­ton. This year, the av­er­age Bull­dogs pick was just over five-foot-11 and 160 pounds, which is slightly shorter and more than 11 pounds lighter than the av­er­age player drafted by the team (and be­fore it the Belleville Bulls) over the past decade.

Bull­dogs prospects were also smaller than the OHL av­er­age in 2017. The rea­son for that, ex­plained Staios, is that size isn’t at the top of Hamil­ton’s list of pri­or­i­ties. Hockey is still phys­i­cal, sure, but it’s be­come a game “played with your brain, your feet and your stick.”

Goal­tenders are the ex­cep­tion to the rule. “That’s one area where we re­ally do look at size,” he said. “I just think with the abil­ity of these play­ers to shoot the puck and with ac­cu­racy now that’s when size re­ally does be­come an ad­van­tage.”

There’s a limit, though. Nick Grainger, the team’s goal­tend­ing coach, said if net­min­ders get too big they’re “just cov­er­ing net that doesn’t ex­ist.” That’s why a player (or in this case, a prospect) in the six-foot to six-foot-three range is ideal — “as long as they can move with the same kind of con­sis­tency as that kid who is five-foot-10.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.