Great things come in small packages. Plenty of NHL players bring true meaning to that famous saying competing in a much huger capacity than their misleading size. Martin St. Louis (5' 9", 177 pounds) is the iconic figure in such a way having earned a Stanley Cup, Hart Trophy and Art Ross Title all in 2004.
Hard work, grit and determination made him the accomplished athlete he is. There are many players similar to his stature such as Mike Cammalleri, Vyacheslav Kozlov, Pavel Datsyuk, Zach Parise, Ray Whitney, Bryan Little; the list is endless.
In Buffalo, Derek Roy possesses those very same qualities. While he's not the biggest guy Lindy Ruff has, his contributions on a nightly basis are immeasurable. A special teams contributor both ways (power play and penalty killing), Roy can lead the way offensively, does everything in his power for the sake of the club and maintains a responsible all-around display.
His professional career took off the same year St. Louis (the player not the team) dominated the league at a time when Miroslav Satan and Daniel Briere were two of the Sabres more threatening forwards. Named as a member of the NHL's YoungStars group, Roy scored nine goals and 10 assists in 49 games.
Then, because of the lock-out, he spent another year in Rochester grooming his skills. Eventually, he found himself regularly in the Sabres line-up as he failed to make the roster out of training camp proving it a difficult task for the staff to ignore his AHL performances.
Roy's strides for improvement have been remarkable as he's quickly transformed into a first-line star used in every situation imaginable. As a depth player first, the 109 points he amassed in two years was instrumental in both of Buffalo's playoff berths in 2006 and 2007.
The postseason became another moment for Roy to prove himself in and he did with 22 points in 34 games. Unexpectedly, Chris Drury and Briere decided to pursue greener pastures over two years ago and let's just say they haven't been the same performers since leaving. Sabres management decided to supply Roy with a six-year, $24 million dollar contract in light of those departures.
This saddled the 26-year-old into an automatic position with increased responsibility as he would have to quickly fill part of the offensive and leadership gap. No problems there. The Ottawa native has led the Sabres in scoring two consecutive seasons with 81 and 70 points respectably.
Although they missed the postseason on those two occasions, it was by mere inches and the 12-4-1 start this season indicates that such a trend may vanish come April. There's still a long way to go but barring any misfortunes such as Ryan Miller's injury last year, Buffalo should return to the promised land.
And as the campaign progresses, so too will Derek Roy's growth. Perhaps not in height but definitely as a player.