I fear Sarnia Sting fans are in for another long winter next year.
That’s because in an era in which big hockey players rule the roost, the Sting selected far too many little guys when the Ontario Hockey League held its annual Priority Selection draft last month.
Statistics tell the story. Of the 19 other teams in the OHL, fully 11 picked more prospects who stand at least six feet tall than did Sarnia. Three other clubs picked just as many six footers as the Sting. Only five chose fewer.
Even more alarming is that a number of clubs took many more big boys than Sarnia. Owen Sound and Sudbury, for example, doubled the Sting number, taking 10 players each who stand at least six feet tall. North Bay did even better, selecting fully a dozen of them. Kingston and Barrie each took almost twice as many as Sarnia (Kingston chose nine and Barrie eight).
It’s not just that the Sting restocked with little guys. Some of them are downright tiny, at least by OHL standards. Seven of them are under 5’10! One is just 5’4 and weighs only 128 pounds. Another is 5’6.
By way of contrast, the London Knights, who know a thing or two about winning, took one guy who is 6’4 and another who is just a shade under 6’6.
Some will argue that small players can be faster and more skillful than the bigger lads. That’s true, especially at the Jr. ‘B’ level, where there’s still some room for smaller athletes. But few little guys go anywhere in hockey these days. All things being equal, knowledgeable hockey men will pick big players over small ones every time.
There’s at least one NHL team that has a policy of not even considering players who aren’t at least six feet tall.
A few of this year’s smaller Sting draft picks may well prosper, despite their lack of height. As I said, there’s the occasional little guy who defies the odds and makes it big.
So of course small players should not be automatically overlooked. But it would be a serious mistake to load up a Major Jr. ‘A’ hockey team with them.
I hope I’m wrong. I hope Sarnia has found a few tiny gems who will finally lead them out of the wilderness. But I fear the Sting will ice a lineup that, despite all it’s skill, will be too small to stand up to the rigors of an OHL campaign. A roster that won’t carry them anywhere close to the championship that their long-suffering fans deserve.