Published On: Tue, May 29th, 2018

2018 NHL Draft Combine: Everything you need to know

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It’s touted as a one-stop shop for NHL general managers and scouting staffs to get a last look at prospects before the draft. In reality, the NHL combine can seem like a meat market, with top prospects on display and results dissected on social media (especially if they’re not positive).

Sixty forwards, 37 defensemen, and seven goalies will attend this week’s annual combine hosted at KeyBank Center and HarborCenter in Buffalo, giving teams a chance to evaluate these prospects in an off-ice setting. Notable names attending include Rasmus Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov, Filip Zadina, Adam Boqvist, Quinn Hughes, and recent Memorial Cup Champion Noah Dobson.

Why should you care?


Teams don’t make their draft lists based on the scouting combine, it’s more of a tool. It gives teams information that can help refine those lists. In scouting, the idea is to gather as much information as possible in order to make the best pick. The combine provides teams with a different kind of knowledge than the kind they gain while watching these kids play every day.

Throughout the week, all 31 teams get the chance to interview around 10 prospects they want to learn more about. During the interviews, which last between 20 and 30 minutes, teams have the opportunity to see how players handle themselves in a one-on-one situation. This is considered the most stressful part of the weekend – and with good reason. Teams are looking at a player’s character, demeanor, and are considering how he’ll fit into their organizational culture. That’s not easy to do in half an hour.

Moreover, players have to clear a medical screening before they undergo physical testing. The screening can reveal any lingering injuries, as well as potential health problems that may have been missed. Once they’re through the screening, players have their conditioning put under the microscope through various tests: the standing long jump, pro agility test, bench press, pull-ups, VO2 max bike test (which looks at endurance), and the Wingate Cycle Ergometer Test (which measures peak anaerobic power and anaerobic capacity).

The VO2 max and the Wingate are the tests where players are most often reintroduced to their last meal. In fact, according to a now-deleted tweet from Montreal Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk from his time at the 2012 combine, the hurling happens even if you don’t eat before. (The tweet lives on in infamy on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ blog.)

Players to watch


One intriguing attendee is Liam Kirk, who is ranked 65th among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting. Kirk, who spent this season with the Sheffield Steelers of the EIHL, is hoping to become the first NHL player to be born and trained in the United Kingdom. (Brendan Perlini, an Arizona Coyotes prospect, was born in the UK but grew up playing hockey in Canada and spent four years in the OHL.)

Another participant worth monitoring is over-ager Sean Durzi of the Owen Sound Attack. Ranked 37th by NHL Central Scouting among North American skaters, Durzi is an offensive defenseman who attended Florida Panthers development camp last summer.

Other players to watch include:

– K’Andre Miller: An NTDP defenseman who just made the switch to defense from forward in the 2015-16 season, and is ranked 23rd among North American skaters by Central Scouting. The positional switch is pretty late to make, but is perhaps interesting commentary on where the defensive side of the game should or could be going.

– Ryan Merkley: A contentious defensive prospect who is pretty much the definition of high-risk, high-reward. He could be a top-10 pick based purely on offensive talent; Central Scouting has him at 45th among North American skaters due to his tendency to make mistakes as big as his highlight-reel moments. Interested teams will probably be picking him apart in the interview portion of the combine to get an idea of whether he’s worth it.

Memorable moments


For an event that’s geared more toward scouting staffs than to the media, the combine can still produce plenty of interesting stories.

Here are some notable events from previous years:

– In 2005, consensus first overall prospect and current Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby skipped part of the physical testing due to both a lower-body injury and a chest cold that briefly sent him to the hospital.

– At the 2008 combine, new Denver University Pioneers head coach David Carle’s physical detected an abnormality that turned out to be hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. While the condition derailed his hockey playing career, he found another path in the sport. As an assistant coach with the Pioneers, Carle has worked with players such as Will Butcher (NJD), Troy Terry (ANA), and Henrik Borgstrom (FLA).

– In 2014, top prospect and current Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett did exactly zero pull-ups at the combine. Performance on one combine test obviously isn’t going to sink a prospect, nor is it a predictor of NHL success or failure, but the fuss made about it on social media was hilarious.

– The scouting combine moved to Buffalo from its previous location in Toronto in 2015. KeyBank Center and the HarborCenter provided an “all-encompassing” venue for the event, including better sight lines and the ability to video the fitness testing. The KeyBank Center and HarborCenter currently have a contract to host the combine through 2019.

– 2017 saw #BikeGuy go viral. Bike Guy, a.k.a. Jordan Marwin, has a special method of motivating prospects to do their best on the Wingate bike test.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)



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