So many changes have swept the NHL in recent years. The game has opened up and a new type of player has risen. Before the new millennium, the NHL was filled with big bodies guys like Scott Stevens.

Smaller players struggled to survive in the old NHL. Even small guys who lit up the score board every night like Paul Kariya faced career shortening injury issues due to their small structures. Except now the game has opened up to more small, smart, skilled and fast players.

Guys like Johnny Gaudreau thrive in the new game. Teams didn’t catch onto this trend immediately though. Despite a 1.20 PPG total in the USHL, Gaudreau didn’t get selected until the 104th pick. Fast forward to the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, we saw 5’8” (173cm) Kailer Yamamoto go 22nd overall. The success of small players has been cemented, but how far can it go?

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There is one name that in only a few short months from now, every fan will know. Cole Caufield might be one of the most intriguing yet divisive players we have seen in a long time. On the surface, Caufield impresses.

He tore apart the World Under 17 Challenge where he scored 13 points in just 6 games. That performance was good enough to be second in points only behind Jack Hughes and 4 points ahead of third place. This was before heading off to Chelyabinsk and Magnitogorsk for the U18 tournament.

There he scored 4 goals and 6 points in 7 games. All this not to mention playing a third of his season on the US Development Program’s U18 team as a 16 year old.

Although, one thing has kept scouts from labeling him as a top 10 prospect for this upcoming 2019 NHL Draft. As of the end of the 2018 season, Caufield is only 5’6” or 168cm in other words. At the 2017 draft, Kailer Yamamoto made headlines as the shortest players to ever be taken in the first round. Yamamoto is 2 inches or 5 centimetres taller than Cole Caufield.

So when have there ever been players like him? Well, the shortest NHL player ever is Roy Worters, but he was a goalie and died before you were born (unless you’re in your early 60s). Worters is irrelevant, but a guy like Nathan Gerbe isn’t. Gerbe is about 5’5” (165cm), an inch shorter than Caufield.

Gerbe has played 396 NHL games and scored 138 points. He wasn’t a star at the NHL level, but one player who was is Brian Gionta. Gionta is 5’7” (170cm) and played over 1000 games in the NHL and came up just short of 600 points. There really is no one conclusion to come to with players this short, but there is a possibility of success.

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Except size isn’t what should define a phenomenal player like Caufield. Earlier we went over his accomplishments, but let’s get into his game on the ice. When Cole Caufield hits the ice, he has one thing in mind, scoring goals.

He scores his goals through his shot and eye for the ice. Caufield’s shot is blistering and can hit anywhere in the net. Few players can shoot has hard and accurate as him.

Caufield’s release is also fast as he doesn’t take much time to wind up. He mostly uses his wrister but every once in a while he’ll show off his slapper. The other thing that allowed him to go over a goal per game with the U17s is his eye for the ice.

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If the slot is left open for even a split second, Caufield can get there, get open, get the puck and get a goal. He constantly finds areas on the ice where he can get open and get his best shot off.

With the concerns of Caufield’s size, he certainly has ways to counter and get around it. He’s strong on his feet and not easy to take off the puck. His lower body strength allows him to take on physical play that would usually take a smaller player off his game.

Caufield’s skating is another attribute that allows him to play at a high level. He’s agile and always keeps his feet moving to stay away from defenders. Combine that with his great hands and he’s like a little weasel zipping around the ice and you just can’t get your hands around him.

There are a few other things to note with Caufield. He’s hard on the puck which allows him to thrive on the forecheck. Because of this, he is also a player to watch on the penalty kill and should never be overlooked when you’re on the power play.

Even though his totals wouldn’t show it, he is also a fine passer and isn’t just a goal scorer. His playmaking ability was shown when he played with the U18 US team rather than when he got 19 assists to his 44 goals with the U17s.

Going forward, Caufield will play his draft year with the USNTDP U18 team. He looks to make the World Junior U20 tournament in the winter, but it seems unlikely. Making the assumption that he doesn’t make that team, he’ll be eligible to play in the U18 World Juniors where he will undoubtedly dominate.

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For the 2020 season, Caufield will head back home to Wisconsin to play for the University of Wisconsin. He will also get to play with fellow little guy, 5’3” (160cm) Sean Dhooghe in Wisconsin. As of right now, nothing is certain with Caufield.

He could be a great goal scorer in the NHL or an interesting trivia question if he does not fare to live up to the hype surrounding his name for the future. But with all the things he’s done so far, there are few reasons to doubt Cole Caufield who is definitely up and coming at the rate in which he is playing at which could be the key aspect to getting him locked up in the NHL when he is ready to take the next step in his professional and rising career.

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