Justin Azevedo's senior season with the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL has been picture perfect. His team came out on top of the OHL all while he won six awards, among these CHL Player of the Year and CHL leading scorer.
He outscored and outplayed players expected to be future NHL stars like Steven Stamkos and Cody Hodgson. As if this wasn't enough, he also led the Memorial Cup in scoring and was named tournament MVP, falling just short of winning it all.
All of this has to make you wonder how this young and talented hockey player fell through the cracks at the last two drafts. After all, he scored over a point per game the first two years he was available for the draft and played an all around game.
The first thing scouts like to point out is his size, at 5'8" no one can argue he isn't small by NHL standards, but he has proven time and time again that it won't stop him. There is a stereotype against short players available for the draft.
People tend to assume that playing a physical game and pushing them around can make them back off and stop them from going into the tough areas of the ice. This was also the only doubt associated with Patrick Kane last year until he proved everyone wrong in the NHL this year even though many thought he would struggle because of his slight stature.
Over the last two seasons, Justin has been proving the skeptics wrong as his points per game average stayed steady in the playoffs. He performed not only on the scoreboard but played physical when he had to.
Azevedo isn't one you can push around. He also won the OHL's playoff MVP after scoring a blazing 36 points in only 20 games leading his Kitchener Rangers to victory.
Justin Azevedo shows the qualities that scouts usually look for in a player that would play in the NHL. He is a hard-working man, going from about 160 pounds at the beginning of the season to a respectable 180 pounds.
A combination of good hands, great puck-control and swift play-making abilities has gotten him 124 points this season. While he isn't the best skater, Azevedo is very passionate about hockey and throughout every game you can see he is committed to doing all the little things to help his team win.
When asked about his size and what people think about it, Justin simply answered he doesn't mind. He sees it as a challenge that he loves taking on.
Size can stop some from being successful players, but not all of them. Martin St. Louis for one was always told that he was too small, that he wasn't strong enough. Nevertheless 5'9" was all he needed, to become a scoring star and lead the NHL in scoring in 2003-2004.
And he isn't the only short player to have found great success as an offensive forward, Theoren Fleury led a very successful career at 5'6" and Brian Gionta has turned into a good top six winger for the New Jersey Devils at only 5'7".
This year will be Azevedo's last chance to be drafted, and if he isn't he will have to sign a contract as a free agent to play in the NHL. This dream season has brought him a lot to celebrate about and with the season he just had, you have to believe he will have more to celebrate about at the draft.
Everything points to him being the next small player to make it big in the NHL. Justin's combination of skills, passion and hard work is what successful NHL players are made of. One can only ignore a player that good for so long.
Any team who doesn't put him on there list for this years draft in Ottawa would be making a big mistake by letting this little man go.
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