BUFFALO NY - JANUARY 05: Jared Cowen (#2) Sean Couturier (#7) and Carter Ashton (#25) may be big, but they have feelings, too. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Apologies for the week long absence here, as I try and get re-adjusted from writing about a major international tournament that kept me on my toes, to getting back in the swing of things regarding relatively minor tournaments and the not quite stretch drive of the European hockey season. I'm going to have some pieces on the various national leagues, as well as the U20 Division 3's. I'm also going to revive my First NHL Goals series, which I'll have to put into hyperdrive with upwards of one a day just to catch up by season's end.
Enough about content to come, here's an interesting comparison for you. One of the themes of the U20s this year was the size of the Canadian team, the largest ever apparently, and it got me thinking about the whole debate in hockey circles about the value of size. Looking at the rosters of some of these other national teams, it does kind of strike you the difference involved. By no means is size the most important thing, but I don't think it's an outlandish hypothesis to make that in general, the biggest and strongest in a society will be put into the country's most viable athletic pursuits. For Canada, that means hockey, and therefore it's not surprising that Canada has a bigger team than anyone else (although the USA was a very close second).
Being bigger may not directly translate to being more skilled, but there should be little doubt that the Canadians were amongst the most skilled, if not THE most skilled team this past year, so this comparison doesn't solve any of the skill vs. size debate, really. But have a look at how Canada's team compared to one of this year's Division 3 U20 level teams in size:
|Canada Player||Pos||Ht||Wt||Year||Taiwan Player||Pos||Ht||Wt||Year|
|Jared Cowen||D||6'6"||227||1991||Yen Lin-Shen||D||5'11"||229||1991|
|Simon Despres||D||6'4"||220||1991||To Weng||F||5'10"||198||1991|
|Erik Gudbranson||D||6'4"||209||1992||Hao-Che Tseng||F||5'10"||172||1991|
|Zack Kassian||F||6'3"||225||1991||Yu-Tung Chao||D||5'9"||172||1994|
|Carter Ashton||F||6'3"||218||1991||Po-Yuan Hsiao||F||5'9"||165||1993|
|Curtis Hamilton||F||6'3"||201||1991||Chieh Liang||F||5'9"||161||1993|
|Sean Couturier||F||6'3"||192||1992||Jui-Tang Chen||F||5'8"||168||1991|
|Dylan Olsen||D||6'2"||223||1991||Fa-Ben Lu||D||5'8"||152||1991|
|Marcus Foligno||F||6'2"||198||1991||Po-Yun Hsiao||F||5'8"||150||1995|
|Mark Visentin||G||6'2"||198||1992||Yu-Lun Liu||F||5'7"||165||1991|
|Ryan Johansen||F||6'2"||192||1992||Chia-Wen Hsu||F||5'7"||154||1991|
|Quinton Howden||F||6'2"||190||1992||Yu-Cheng Liao||G||5'7"||154||1992|
|Brett Connolly||F||6'2"||181||1992||Wei-Chieh Liao||F||5'7"||150||1993|
|Brayden Schenn||F||6'0"||201||1991||Jia-Jyun Hong||D||5'7"||128||1993|
|Calvin de Haan||D||6'0"||187||1991||Kuan-Yu Shih||D||5'7"||123||1992|
|Cody Eakin||F||6'0"||185||1991||Chia-Pin Chang||F||5'6"||148||1991|
|Casey Cizikas||F||5'11"||190||1991||Kuo-Feng Juan||F||5'5"||143||1991|
|Olivier Roy||G||5'11"||185||1991||Yu-Han Liao||G||5'5"||126||1995|
|Louis Leblanc||F||5'11"||179||1991||Yang-Chung Lee||D||5'4"||132||1993|
As you can see, only three Taiwan players met the Canadian minimum height standard, with only two tipping the scales at an acceptable Canadian level. And Yen Lin-Shen's unorthodox proportions kind of make him stand out at any level, as despite being a respectable 5'11", he's actually heavier than any of the Canadian players. It's tough to imagine two fifteen year olds ever playing at the top level of the U20s as well, but for one of the lowest ranked teams, I suppose you take your best no matter how old they are.
Taiwan will be staying at the Division 3 level next year, while Canada will be looking to get back to the top of the heap on home ice. I guess this gives a whole other meaning to the idea of 'growing the game worldwide'.