Open Mike Night - 6/8/09
With all junior, amateur and otherwise non-professional hockey finished for the season, the last leg of relevance prior to the NHL Entry Draft was completed in the waning days of May in Toronto. The NHL Scouting Combine saw 104 players eligible for the 2009 Entry Draft come out and show their stuff, not only physically but mentally as well. With scouts, general managers and everyone in between watching over a slew of tests and jotting down notes on answers to such questions as, “How do you feel last season went for you?” or “how many wristwatches do you own?” prospects get one last chance to raise their draft stock.
Only so many stats from the combine are released, but here’s a taste of what happened at the combine.
Some of the more basic measurements include body fat percentage and wingspan. This year, the body fat average was 9.8%. EJHL prospect Brian Dumoulin led the way by an entire percentage point at 6.1%. Toni Rajala and Evander Kane were next at 7.2% but likely for different reasons. Potential top-20 pick, Ryan Ellis put up a rather uninspiring 13.2% body fat. Chris Kreider and Jordan Szwarz also had favorable numbers due to leanness as we’ll see later.
6-foot-7 Taylor Doherty was the unsurprising wingspan leader – measuring up at 80 inches. The 6-foot-3 Dumoulin checked in at 79.5 inches and 6-foot-5 Spokane (WHL) d-man Jared Cowen stretched out to 79 inches. Highly-ranked forward Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi reached nearly 77 inches, well over the average of 74.09 inches.
The conductors also proctored a hand-eye coordination test. The top goalie in the test was Saginaw (OHL) netminder Edward Pasquale (third overall). Defensemen make up the remaining four of the top five: Doherty, Cowen, Ellis and fellow Spitfire (OHL) Jesse Blacker.
Anaerobic fitness can be an important measurement as it is conducted in very short increments, like a regular on-ice shift. The test’s output is quantified in mean (and peak) power (watts/kg). Leading the way in mean power was Burke Gallimore from Saskatoon (WHL), followed closely by Szwarz and Dumoulin. Highly-rated prospects Jacob Josefson, Evander Kane and Landon Ferraro also faired well. Szwarz garnered the highest peak while Gabriel Lemieux, Doherty and Erie’s Ryan O’Reilly placed favorably.
To test endurance, the combine utilizes an aerobic VO2max test. Finnish prospect Sami Vatanen took home the top prize, while Oliver Ekman-Larsson finished a close second. Carter Ashton, Tyson Barrie, Tim Erixon and Jordan Caron also featured prominently.
There are several tests to determine lower body strength, not the least of which is the standing long jump. Mac Bennett’s 119 inches led the way, while Saskatoon’s Stefan Elliott followed up with 116 inches. Joonas Nattinen, Kyle Palmieri, Louis Leblanc and Jeremy Morin all registered 115 inches. Alex Velischek from the Delbarton Green Wave (HS-NJ) crept into the top ten at 111 inches.
Other players exhibiting excellent leg strength were: Doherty, Kreider, Victor Hedman, Ethan Werek and Simon Despres.
On to upper-body strength. The players are subject to perfect form 150-pound bench presses. This year’s average is up to 10.7 from last year’s ten. Szwarz, O’Reilly and Sweden’s Carl Klingberg led the way with 18. Diminutive (or so it seemed) forward Jordan Schroeder racked up 17. Palmieri, Kane, Doherty, Caron and Zack Kassian also put the bar up effectively.
Other upper-body strength leaders included: Erik Haula, Tomas Tatar, John Moore, Mappin, Vatanen and Bubnick.
Ekman-Larsson was rated below average in both lower and upper-body strength. Ellis, Nazem Kadri, Scott Glennie and Brayden Schenn (though battling injuries) suffered the same fate. Incidentally, Richard Panik from Windsor (OHL) was labeled “skilled but fat” by one well-placed observer.
In terms of mental strength, or at least interview skills, Guelph’s (OHL) Peter Holland and University of Minnesota standout Jordan Schroeder did not do so well. O’Reilly, Caron and Kulikov may have boosted their stock slightly in some club’s respective minds. Chris Kreider did well overall at the combine but isn’t recognized as a top prospect in terms of skill.
Unlike the NFL, a combine doesn’t make or break a hockey career. There’s been some rather uneventful performances in past combines. Such as Dany Heatley’s reported zero pushups or Phil Kessel’s atrocious interview that was full of awkward silence. However, it can make a difference if a franchise is stuck between two or three promising prospects. The final results will, of course, come to the forefront June 26th in Montreal – stay tuned to Faceoff Factor for in-depth draft coverage.