When Brendan Gallagher was picked in the ninth round of the Western Hockey League's bantam draft in 2007, he stood about 5-foot-3.

He was probably the smallest player in the draft of 14-year-olds turning 15, said his father, Ian Gallagher.

Gallagher's smaller stature has sparked doubts about his game along the way, but it hasn't held him back. Far from it.

Now a 5-foot-9, 178-pound sparkplug on the ice, the 20-year-old Gallagher is making a splash in his rookie season with the Canadiens, winning over fans with his tenacious, drive-to-the-net play. The Canadiens' fifth-round draft pick in 2010, he has six goals and seven assists in 19 games and is plus-10, tied with Brandon Prust for the team lead in plus/minus.

Former coaches from minor hockey paint a picture of a fearless kid who worked hard — on and off the ice — and competed that way.

"The thing with Brendan, he's played the same way at every level," said Don Hay, coach of the Vancouver Giants, the major-junior team that Gallagher played with for four years.

"When he was a peewee, he played the same way and then people would say: 'Well, he can't do that in bantam,' and then 'he won't be able to do that in midget,' and then 'I don't think he can do that in juniors and then 'can he do it in the NHL?' " Hay said.

"He's just proved people wrong all the time."