Combine tests challenge prospects
Physical drills for 2008 NHL entry draft hopefuls 'not for the faint of heart'
|Drew Doughty and fellow prospects spent a gruelling day at the 2008 NHL scouting combine traveling from station to station to particpate in 13 rigorous indivdual tests designed to evaluate the strength and overall fitness of the draft hopefuls.
The test was designed and administered by Dr. Norm Gledhill, a professor of kinesiology at York University in Toronto. This is the 14th year Gledhill has tested the athletes at the Toronto-based combine.
Each test was held at a separate station under the watchful eyes of several dozen of Gledhill's employees and graduate students. Gledhill was asked to explain each test for the benefit of NHL.com readers.
"The first station was Body Composition, which measures percentage of body fat," he said. "The next was Grip Strength, a push-in/pull-out device. Players are often tested for upper-body strength, but rarely grip strength. It's important to understand the distinction between grip strength and upper-body strength. Tie Domi had the team's top upper-body strength when he played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but was near the bottom in grip strength, so they don't always go hand-in-hand. The Upper Body test is a medicine-ball throw which measures power.
"The next station, Push/Pull Strength, measures upper-body strength. That's followed by the Bench Press, Curl Ups and Push Ups. Trunk Flexion measures stretch and reach, basically a toe-touch. The Standing Long Jump measures leg power. One player who tested highly overall did poorly on this test, basically jumping up instead of out. The Vertical Jump also measures leg power.
"Then comes the Agility Test, fast-footwork within a hexagonal frame," that resembled hopscotch on steroids.
"The final two stations measure fitness. The Wingate Cycle Ergometer test measures anaerobic fitness. The test left a number of players physically ill after pushing their heart rates as high as 200 beats per minute during the 30-second all-out sprint.
"After a 10-minute break, players climb onto a second stationary bike for the VO2 Max test, which measures aerobic fitness.
"Here at the NHL, we have ways of finding out who really, really wants to play in this league. The physical testing at the NHL combine is not for the faint of heart."
-- John McGourty
'Help' for the bike – There literally is no escape from the two bike tests that represent the most crushing part of the NHL scouting combine.
For the Wingate Cycle Ergometer test and the VO2 Max test, the players have their feet duct taped to the pedals.
"It's a little bit of a scary thought that they've got to bring duct tape, one of the most forceful tapes out there … and they're taping you down," said Geordie Wudrick, the Swift Current Broncos forward ranked No. 71 by Central Scouting, who was put through his paces Saturday. "You know its going to be intense."
"As soon as they put that tape on you, right away you know its going to be pretty intense and all out," added Ottawa 67s defenceman Tyler Cuma, rated No. 19. "They don't let you quit at all. You have to push through until you absolutely can't do it anymore, until you're almost passing out on the bike."
Also "helping" in that function are the trainers provided by York University Human Performance Lab, which coordinates the testing. There are two or three trainers with each player, screaming as loud as they can to implore the player to push that much harder.
"It's a little bit annoying," said Cuma. "You've got guys yelling at you and you just want to focus on what you're doing. It's good. They're just pushing you to give that little extra boost that you need."
- Adam Kimelman
Teams go to lengths to surprise – Most of the players at the combine have agents, so while the players never have been here before, in most cases their agents know the drill. Agents tell players what to expect and help them prepare for their interviews.
Teams know this and try to get the players off their "scripts" as much as possible, to learn the true nature of the player. Each team usually has at least one oddball question designed to get a youngster shaking his head.
The general consensus here at the combine was that San Jose Sharks director of scouting Tim Burke had the oddest of the oddball questions. Burke, a native of Melrose, Mass., challenged players to name the longest river in Canada. You'd probably think it's the massive St. Lawrence River, but actually it's the Mackenzie River, which originates in Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories and flows 1,080 miles into the Arctic Ocean. It's 2,635 miles if you include its tributaries, the Peace and Finlay rivers.
That's your geography lesson for the day, but it doesn't answer why Burke was asking the question.
"Not all the questions are designed to rattle the player or put him on the defensive," Burke said. "Ninety-nine percent of the players got the question wrong and were a little flustered, but we put them at ease by telling them no one else got it, either. That gave us a moment of levity and I think helped relax players.
"So many players are telling us the same things over and over again and we want to discover the actual person behind the prepared answer. It's important to us that we get through to that player and get an understanding of his makeup. I swear, if I hear one more player tell me his strength is his 'passion,' I think I'll scream."
- John McGourty
|With three brothers, Eric, Jordan and Marc, already suiting up for NHL clubs, one would think that Jared Staal would have a significant advantage at the 2008 scouting combine. However, that is not the case according to the Sudbury Wolves' forward who claims his elder siblings didn't prepare him all that much outside of telling him to work hard and be himself.
Brotherly love – Of all the players participating in the fitness portion of the 2008 scouting combine here at the Westin Bristol Place Toronto Airport Hotel, you would think Jared Staal would have a significant advantage.
After all, his three brothers, Eric (Carolina Hurricanes), Marc (New York Rangers) and Jordan (Pittsburgh Penguins) have been through this before.
"How did they prepare me?" asked Jared. "Not very well. They told me to get ready and placed a lot of garbage cans around the room. Seriously, though, they just told me to be myself during the interviewing process and during the fitness tests to work as hard as I could because scouts and coaches want to see how hard you push yourself when you're tired."
Jared, the No. 43-ranked North American skater by Central Scouting, was a 2006 first-round draft pick of the Sudbury Wolves (11th overall) in the Ontario Hockey League's 2006 priority selection draft. He finished with 21 goals and 28 assists in 60 games with Sudbury in 2007-08.
- Mike G. Morreale
Rules consistency – After the combine, Central Scouting director E.J. McGuire is flying to Indianapolis for the NCAA's Rules Committee meeting.
The NHL would like to see the NCAA adopt the same level of on-ice rules enforcement as the NHL.
"It's never a bad thing to have the game consistent across as many bodies as possible," said McGuire. "We want to sell the game, but we don't want to sell a confusing version to the fans at various levels."
- Adam Kimelman
Three Pats – NHL Central Scouting invited three players from the Western Hockey League's Regina Pats to the scouting combine – Colten Teubert, the No. 18-rated North American player, No. 33 Jordan Eberle and No. 67 Matt Delahey.
"It's pretty special that we all came into the league as rookies together and now we've moved along the line and developed," Delahey told NHL.com. "It's pretty sweet that we're all here at the combine with an opportunity to get drafted."
While Teubert is the most physically imposing of the bunch and Eberle, who won the WHL's Daryl K. (Doc) Seaman Scholastic Player of the Year award, is the brain, Delahey is a bit of an unknown heading into the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, to be held June 20-21 at Scotiabank Place. The 18-year-old defenceman hopes his combine showing increases his value.
"I basically helped Colten and Jordan out most of the time," Delahey admitted. "I'm a bit of a stay-at-home defenceman who makes sure everything is sound in my own defensive zone. I'm a good skater for a big guy and, while probably not as physical as Colten, can hold my own. I also can offer that good first pass."
- Mike G. Morreale
|Phoenix Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney admitted to NHL.com that he has been impressed with the talent of this year's draft class at the Combine.
Maloney impressed by talent – Phoenix Coyotes general manager Don Maloney admitted he has been impressed with this year's draft class at the combine and feels it's a sign of things to come.
"The difference I've noticed in this combine is that there are a lot of smaller-sized players here that are very talented, where seven or eight years ago, those same players would not even have been invited," Maloney told NHL.com. "But now the way the game is and rules are, young players, despite being 5-foot-9 or even 5-foot-8, are going to get a hard look. If you have talent and some speed, you have a chance. To me, that's where the game is going so we continue to bring more talent into the league, which is good for everybody."
Maloney, who possesses five of the top 50 picks in this year's draft, has eight players in his crosshairs come draft day. He also wouldn't deny a possible trade to move up.
"Obviously I'm not going to elaborate on any player in particular, but I can tell you we're not looking for a goalie with our first pick (eighth overall)," Maloney said. "We're going to get one of the eight players that we really like in this draft, so we're in a very unique position where, almost by default, whoever is there at eight, we'll be very happy to get. I can't see us moving down at all, but it's still debatable on whether or not we'll move up. I'm not sure though, because unless you can move up really high, it might not make much of a difference since I still think we're going to get a terrific player at No. 8."
- Mike G. Morreale
New experience for Filatov - Nikita Filatov, the top-rated European skater by NHL Central Scouting, was grateful to gain some rest following his rigorous fitness-day workout.
Filatov, who led Russia in scoring with nine points (four goals) in seven games at the 2008 World Junior Championship, knew the fitness portion of the combine would be difficult, but not to the extent he experienced.
"The (Wingate) bicycle test was much harder for me because you get very tired because you're pushing so hard," Filatov told NHL.com. "And then when I had to get on the second bike (for the VO2 Max test), I felt like I was going to die. We never did anything like that in Russia and it's not possible for a Russian player to understand if they've never done it. I knew we would do this, but you can't prepare in a few weeks or a month because we have our own training to do, but it's nothing like this."
Filatov, a likely first-round draft choice, admitted he slept about five hours Friday following his testing.
"I was glad there were people there to motivate me," he said. "Their motivation probably pushed me another two more minutes. I know I wasn't the best at the combine, but I know I did all I could. I put everything into it and I didn't give up."
- Mike G. Morreale
Author: NHL.com Staff