Player: Bryan Little
Size: 5’10, 185
DOB: November 12, 1987
Draft: 1st round, 12th overall (2006)
At 5’10, 185, Winnipeg Jets centre Bryan Little is small by NHL standards – but that’s about all he lacks. He has very good speed and acceleration, and a strong lower body to help him fight through checks. He’ll never dominate in the corner or along the boards, but he plays with more grit than most skilled players of his size. He’s a very well-rounded offensive player, with excellent stickhandling ability, and a great shot. He’s primarily a goal scorer, as his preference is to shoot the puck, but he’s equally good at setting up teammates. He definitely has the talent to be a first liner, but like most developing players, he’ll need linemates with equal or greater talent to help him maximize his potential.
Whereas most players of his age and ilk don’t concentrate as hard on the defensive side of the game, Little is the full package. Last year he was second among forwards in ice-time, playing significant minutes in all situations, including the penalty kill. He also took almost twice as many faceoffs (1331) last year as the next-most used centre, winning 46.3%, which is not a bad percentage considering he spent most of the two previous years as a winger. Being relied on so much at such a young age says a lot about Little’s maturity and dedication to the game.
Little displays other great intagibles too. While he possesses a quiet demeanor, he was captain of his junior team, the Barrie Colts, and several pre-draft scouting reports indicated that he was NHL captain material. Last year his team awarded him the Dan Snyder Memorial Award, given to the Atlanta Thrashers’ player who “best embodies perseverance, dedication, and hard work without reward or recognition, so that his team and teammates might succeed.” His junior career is littered with similar achievements, including mantles like “hardest worker”, and “smartest player” as voted on by opposing OHL coaches.
Though he has a tremendous amount of raw talent, Bryan Little may not become a 1st line forward – but that doesn’t mean that he won’t reach his potential. With his intelligence, work ethic, and wide range of abilities, Little is the type of player who will contribute in every way possible. While he doesn’t have nearly the same level of talent, one could draw comparisons to Steve Yzerman – another small, quiet, right-handed centre with great intelligence, work ethic, two-way ability, and leadership qualities. I expect that Little will settle in as a second line centre who will consistently score 25 goals and 60 points. Furthermore, he’ll be a fixture on the pk and in the faceoff dot, and take on a big leadership role with this young club. Along with Evander Kane, he is our most promising forward, and should play a crucial role for the Winnipeg Jets of today and tomorrow.
Projection for 2011-2012 : 78GP 29G 30A 59P
- Was named OHL rookie of the year in 2004, and tied for 1st in goals among rookies
- Played on Canada’s 2007 World Junior team that won gold in Leksand, Sweden
- Scored 216 points in his last 2 seasons of junior hockey, and became the Barrie Colts’ franchise leader in goals and points
- Was voted “hardest worker”, “best playmaker”, “most dangerous in the goal area”, “best on faceoffs”, and “best shot” in each of his last two years in junior (OHL Eastern Conference coaches poll)
- Helped the Chicago Wolves win the Calder Cup in ’07-‘08, scoring 8 playoff goals as a rookie pro
- Finished second in goals (31) in ’08-’09 behind Ilya Kovalchuk
- After returning from injury last season, he led the team in scoring from that point on with 17 goals and 27 assists in his last 66 games
- Led all Thrashers in +/- (+11); by contrast, forwards with similar role and ice-time include Ladd (-10), Kane (-12), and Antropov (-17)