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Size may not be everything, but it matters quite a bit

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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)
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)
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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 vs. Chinese Taipei Size Comparison
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
Tyson Barrie D 5'10" 190 1991
Ryan Ellis D 5'10" 183 1991
Jaden Schwartz F 5'10" 183 1992

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'.