The seven-round draft will be held 40 miles from Dhooghe’s hometown, Aurora, Ill., and has stayed in the back of his mind recently. Whether Dhooghe joins a fraternity of N.H.L. players who stand less than 6 feet tall and includes stars like the Calgary Flames’ Johnny Gaudreau, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Cam Atkinson and the Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane remains undetermined.
But in an era when the N.H.L. has become dominated by speed, precision skating and a player’s ability to read and react and visualize where the puck is headed before it arrives, Dhooghe’s hopes are not unrealistic.
“This is the time and the era for a player like that to be able to make it,” said Darren Pang, a goalie who played 81 career N.H.L. games despite being only 5-foot-5.
Pang, who now works as a television analyst, added: “It will take an individual in an organization that goes to bat hard for a player that size. It always has been that way and it will remain that way because I don’t believe it will be a unanimous consensus. Everybody in the organization isn’t going to say, ‘O.K., let’s take a chance on a player that small.’”
As Dhooghe prepares for his next hockey challenge — playing N.C.A.A. Division I hockey at Wisconsin — he has long become accustomed to the scouting reports that precede him.
“The first thing they see is ‘Wow — that kid is really small’ and it’s been the same my whole life,” Dhooghe said. “At Squirt, Squirt Major — ‘They’re going to start hitting next year. He’ll never be able to handle the hitting.’ I handle the hitting. ‘He’ll never be able to handle when they combine two birth years,’ and I handle it just fine. Junior hockey – ‘he’s not going to play in the U.S.H.L. and compete.’ It’s going to be the same next year in college — ‘He’s not going to be able to handle it.’”
Pang and Granato, whose brother Tony is the head coach at Wisconsin, are…