Bryan Little

Bryan Little with his parents John and Brenda at the Heritage Classic game in 2019

Several times a Cambridge Athlete of the Year nominee (2004, 2006, 2007), Bryan Little scored 200 goals with the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets, but before he made it to the NHL, he was a key member of the victorious Canadian team at the 2004 World Under-18 tournament and a member of the 2007 World Junior Hockey championship team. 

In 2002 Little made the Cambridge Winterhawks Junior B team, and in 40 games that season, he scored 20 goals and added 15 assists.

The next year he was with the OHL’s Barrie Colts, where he played for the next four seasons. From the start, he made an immediate impact, scoring 34 goals. By his third year he scored 42 goals and had 109 points, which he nearly replicated in his final season with the Colts, when he scored 41 goals and added 66 assists. That season (2006-07) Little was named a second team OHL all-star.

Drafted in the first round by Atlanta in the NHL draft—12th overall pick—the centreman played 48 games for the Thrashers in 2007-08, scoring six goals and adding 10 assists. He spent part of that year with their AHL Chicago Wolves affiliate but was back with the Thrashers for the next three seasons before Atlanta relocated and he was transferred to the Winnipeg Jets on June 21, 2011.

Known for his solid playmaking ability and sound defensive skills, he also exhibited a tremendous work ethic, something that was on display from his first season in the NHL.

As a 19-year-old rookie playing his first NHL game, he became the first player in franchise history to score a goal in his NHL debut when he scored a second-period goal in Atlanta’s season-opener on October 5, 2007.

That rookie season saw him score 31 goals, second most among the Thrashers, and tie for the team lead with 12 power-play goals. He also scored four game-winning goals.

Little scored his first career hat trick, Dec. 26, 2008, against the Carolina Hurricanes. That effort came on the heels of a two-goal game against the New York Islanders. 

Indeed, he was on a streak at the time; he scored seven goals over four games. 

With a strong second year he earned a spot in the 2009 NHL YoungStars Game. A consummate team player, he became the first two-time winner of the Jets/Thrashers franchise’s Dan Snyder Memorial Award after the 2013-14 season. The award, given to a player who “best embodies perseverance, dedication and hard work without reward or recognition, so that his team and teammates might succeed,” was first presented to Little after the 2010-11 season.  

Little signed a six-year $31,746,000 contract with the Jets, and an annual average salary of $5,291,000.

The relocation of the franchise to Winnipeg for the 2011-12 season offered Little a chance to realize his dream of playing for a Canadian NHL team.

After the move he switched numbers, from No. 10 to No. 18, out of respect for former Jets legend Dale Hawerchuk.

But even more than that, he achieved another dream to play in the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2015. 

Little led the team in their first-round matchup with Anaheim Ducks, with two goals, and tied for the team lead with three points in the series.

Little scored his 200th NHL goal against the Chicago Blackhawks on March 29, 2018, and he was the fifth member of the 2006 NHL Draft class to reach 500 points when he scored what proved to be the game-winning goal against the Detroit Red Wings on Jan. 11, 2019.

On October 26, 2019, he scored the game-winning overtime goal in the Tim Horton’s Heritage Classic Outdoor Game at Regina’s Mosaic Stadium in front of 33,518 fans. It was the first NHL regular-season game held in Saskatchewan.

He played with Winnipeg through the 2019-2020 season, when he was traded to Arizona with Nathan Smith for a 4th-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft on March 21, 2022.