Little playing big role for Jets

Little playing big role for Jets - image

WINNIPEG – The National Hockey League season is still in its infancy but Bryan Little is well on his way to having a career year.

Little scored the overtime winner in Sunday’s 2-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche. The 26-year-old now has a team-leading five goals in the first eight games. At that torrid pace, he would score a career-high 51 goals this season. Little’s best season previously was his sophomore campaign with the Atlanta Thrashers back in 2008-09, when he scored 31 goals. In 82 games with the Jets last season, Little found the net 23 times while adding 41 assists.

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He’s been a pleasant surprise for Jets head coach Paul Maurice.

“His compete level is really, really high,” Maurice said. “He’s got skills, and we knew that kind of coming in, but I didn’t realize what kind of practice player he was. He comes to work every day and he competes every day.”

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The Thrashers selected Little in the first round, 12th overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He’s only listed at 5-foot-11, 189 pounds.

“He’s not the biggest guy out there,” said Maurice. “He’s a good number one centre. He’s not Ryan Getzlaf in terms of his physical presence but in what you’re asking him to do. In the minutes that he plays, he kills penalties, he’s on the power play.”

But Maurice cautioned that Little is scoring at a pace he probably won’t be able to maintain.

“We’re not sure if we’re expecting him to hold that pace, but he’s gonna get to 25 to 35 or whatever this year. That’s a pretty good player.”

The Jets open a four-game road trip Tuesday against the New York Islanders.

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