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The game has changed but come on. The guy saying "if he can grow to even 5'6 or 5'7 and put on some size with age, then watch out" is out of his gourd. There is no place for a 5'6" defensemen. Watch 5'9" 180 lbs. Torey Krug. Short little crappy strides, too slow, no reach, gets killed in front of the net and all he is is a way overpaid, bottom pairing, power play specialist and he is a one in a million! Look at our old pal Lil' Tidbit, lead the Q in scoring for two straight years and is a magician with the puck and at 5'8" for a forward and he gets no respect. Look at the Little Super Star (5'8") at BC and everyone in H.S. was "oh look at his skating, look at his skating..." and look at him with the big boys. Undersized and the skating isn't all that special now is it? TL is no fool, if the kid doesn't grow he will move him up front.
If a kid is strong decent size, A "smart" player that keeps head up, skilled enough and assuming the coach will use him in situations that are fitting, why hold him back. Yes there's a chance he could get hurt but there's a chance they can all get hurt. What a about those kids that didn't even start playing hockey till 7th or 8th grade and then get on a HS team skating with head down and don't know the game. That's an even worse scenario! I'de rather see a skilled 8th grader with good hockey sense out there.
I have no idea what school your kid goes to but "What a about those kids that didn't even start playing hockey till 7th or 8th grade and then get on a HS team skating with head down" doesn't happen at our H.S. Kids that start in the 2nd or 3rd grade are late bloomers for most average to good teams.
sounds like a great team to be on.