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KK Members Blog

The Mighty Mite: Undersized, overlooked... and flat out dominant!

05/22/2015 at 3:53pm EDT

The Mighty Mite-

The undersized star that shouldn’t even be on the ice yet dominates play.

My introduction to this elusive player was none other than Theo Fleury. At 5’6” (some say that’s generious) Fleury could not be ignored as the undersized power forward. He was built like a semi truck with the speed and agility of a super car. In his prime he was the number one threat that had to be shut down in Calgary. Good luck with that. When he wasn’t scoring goals he was crushing players all over the ice. And when he got angry he may as well have been the Hulk’s Mini Me taking on players who towered over him and beating the living snot out of them. He was so memorable in my house that a conversation about jerseys turned into reminiscing about when Fleury’s jersey was too bloodied to allow him back on the ice after a cut. A fan volunteered to give him a team signed jersey to get back in the game. Fortunately the equipment manager found a spare jersey with another number on it and quickly added Fleury’s name to the back. I didn’t know number changes were legal during games, but the refs allowed it and back in he went.

Of course, not all mighty mites are power forwards. In the modern era a player like Fleury would be the exception, not the rule. But what is a mighty mite?

For the purposes of this forum I would like to limit the qualifications to players under 5’10” whose skill cannot be ignored, like Martin St. Louis in his prime, or Steve Sullivan when he was healthy, both 5’8”. I am talking about players who cannot be left unchecked for fear of losing games.

What made me think to discuss this topic you ask? One man: Tyler friggin’ Johnson.

I watched Johnson very closely as the Wings took the Lightning to seven games in the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. I watched Luke Glendening tasked with the job of shutting this mighty mite down. He tried, and was mostly successful. But when Johnson got a favorable matchup or someone missed an assignment there was no one who could stop him. Shutting down Steven Stamkos? No problem. Shutting down Tyler Johnson? That was a whole other story. At first the kid was frustrated. Then he figured it out and bided his time. Monday night he scored the first hat trick in Lightning playoff history.

But enough doting on Johnson, this isn’t about one player; this is about a type of player, an elite group that Johnson is finding himself joining this season. In my research for this post I browsed Yahoo! Sports’ roster listings to see how many players in the NHL are smaller than 5’10”. I found 28 players that fit the first qualification of the mighty mite as laid out by my specifications (a number that rose after realizing I missed two, maybe more, it’s a tedious job researching rosters). And that wasn’t the most interesting find.

What I found most interesting is only one team didn’t have a single player listed under 6’0”. And no, it wasn’t the Philadelphia Flyers. It was the Washington Capitals. I know, right? Every other team has at least one player under 6’. Most teams have multiple players under the new magic number, which is smaller than the league average of 6’1”. Of note: Montreal, New Jersey, NYR and Tampa Bay all have three players listed at less than 5’10”, though only Tyler Johnson is playing for Tampa Bay.

Of course not all of them can be considered might mites. So who do I consider noteworthy as someone who either has achieved mighty mite status or has potential to do so?

Players who stand out to me are:

  • Tory Krug of Boston at 5’9” – an undersized defenseman Wings fans may never forgive Holland for letting leave the state
  • David Desharnais of Montreal at 5’7” – I can’t seem to catch a Canadians’ game without noticing this guy, though admittedly it may be the name, he has an awesome hockey name
  • Martin St. Louis of NYR at 5’8” – the prototypical mighty mite in his prime now in the twilight of his career but still putting up veteran acceptable numbers
  • Tyler Johnson of Tampa Bay at 5’9” – Marin who? And he plays center!
  • Johnny Gaudreau of Calgary at 5’9” – even more potent than Desharnais and another player who cannot go unnoticed while watching his team

There are honorable mentions, sure, but if I listed every player that came to mind there may not be anything left to talk about. So this is where I turn the forum over to you.

Any era, any team, any player you think fits the mold of the mighty mite.

Who is he? What makes him a mighty mite? And most importantly, why have I not heard of him? OK, that last one is just a joke, I’ve only been following hockey for about 20 years so I’ve still got a lot to learn. And I can’t watch every team play every game (such a daunting and expensive task might send even me into hockey overload) so I may well have missed a current player or two we should all be aware of. Who says learning can’t be fun?

I yield the floor.

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