A couple of years ago, players such as Jordan Foreman might not have received much of a look as a hockey player. He was five-foot-nine and only 165 pounds. In a sport where size has often meant more than skill, a scorer such as Foreman would have received the following assessment: "Good skill, good hands, he can skate, but too small and not strong enough."
Now the assessment might read: "Good skill, good hands, he can skate, not big but not afraid to get involved. Can put the puck in the net."
This is not to say hockey is turning over a new leaf and going with skill over size, but no longer is the little guy automatically excluded.
Foreman is second in exhibition scoring for the London Knights with two goals and two assists in four games.
He was a seventh-round draft choice in 2003. As a 16-year-old he was named rookie of the year in the Midwestern junior B league with the Cambridge Winterhawks. Foreman, who appeared in two Knights games last season, had 38 goals and 30 assists in 48 games with Cambridge.
"I've heard that I'm too small and not strong enough, all through my career," Foreman said. "All the big-name players you hear about are the power-type forward. But now you are getting the Martin St. Louis, the smaller guys are starting to become more of a factor in the games at the higher level."
St. Louis, the Tampa Bay Lightning forward who dominated the NHL awards last year, has become the standard-bearer for smaller players.
It's obvious what Foreman brings to the table. He darts around the ice, popping up in scoring position like a ghost. He shoots the puck quickly and with strength. He isn't shy about heading to the front of the net or into a corner.
"He plays with grit," Knights general manager Mark Hunter said.
"It's how you play," coach Dale Hunter said. "He plays hard. There's no worry about his size. He'll play this year and he'll score a lot of goals if he's given the time to develop. He'll need a little time to adjust."
Grit is good in this case. He's just one player on a team that isn't very big. They need their smaller players to play with attitude.
"I love it (going in the corners). I'll do whatever I need to do to help the team," Foreman said. "All the guys here are a lot bigger and a lot stronger than in junior B. The pace of the game is a lot quicker. You don't have time to think about things, you have to make the play.
"I worked hard on getting bigger and stronger. I knew coming here there were a lot of guys fighting for jobs and there are not a lot of spots here. I have to be strong on the puck and use speed to my advantage on the big guys."
The Knights have been tagged as favourites in the Canadian Hockey League preseason ratings. Players like Foreman who haven't played in the league will be thrown into a highly visible, pressure-filled situation as the Knights prep for the Memorial Cup.
"I know I can play in this league; it's just a matter of me proving it," Foreman said. "I've always wanted to play at the highest level I can. There are 9,000 fans a game here and the Memorial Cup is coming here. It would be a great year to play."
Foreman has always been a scorer. Even though he plays with an edge, he knows the best way to help this team is by scoring. That's when a smaller player gets noticed.
He works on his shooting eye by getting his 13-year-old sister Stephanie, who is a top-level baseball player, to play net.
"I get her to stand in the middle of the driveway in net and I shoot at her," Foreman said.
Tennis ball or puck?
"Tennis ball. I'm not that mean," he said. "Maybe when I make it big, I'll buy her a house or something."