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Posted On Saturday, 06.04.2011 / 3:55 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

And the winners are …

After two days, all 100 players have finished their testing here at the Toronto Congress Centre. After covering the Day 1 leaders, we have some final results to report:

Peak power output -- The Wingate Cycle Ergometer -- also known as the bane of prospects' existence -- measures how hard a player can go in a 30-second shift. Portland Winterhawks forward Ty Rattie and Shawinigan Cataractes defenseman Jonathan Racine, the first-day leaders, finished on top with 15.9 watts of energy per kilogram of body weight. Choate-Rosemary Hill School forward Philippe Hudon was third at 15.7.

VO2 Max test duration -- No one matched the two defensemen who lasted 14 minutes yesterday, Skelleftea's Adam Larson and the Vancouver Giants' David Musil, each at 14 minutes. Niagara IceDogs defenseman Dougie Hamilton, Saginaw Spirit forward Brandon Saad, Edmonton Oil Kings goaltender Laurent Brossoit and center Gregory Hoffman, who plays for Ambri in Switzerland's top league, all lasted 13 minutes.

Wing span -- Brossoit stands just 6-foot-2 1/2, but his 81-inch wingspan led the field. Moose Jaw Warriors defenseman Joel Edmundson, who stands 6-foot-4 1/2, was next at 79.24 inches.

Body fat -- U.S. National Team forward Rocco Grimaldi and Saint John Sea Dogs forward Ryan Tesink were the leanest players at 6.8 percent body fat. Shawinigan Cataractes forward Maximilien Le Sieur was next at 7.0 percent.

Long jump -- Shawinigan defenseman Jonathan Racine's first-day leap of 119.3 inches finished atop the leaderboard. U.S. National Team defenseman Connor Murphy was second at 115.5, followed closely by Edmonton Oil Kings left wing Travis Ewanyk and U.S. National team goaltender John Gibson, who each went 115 inches.

Vertical jump -- Le Sieur stands just 6-foot-1 3/4, but he had the best hops of all the prospects, going 30.5 inches in the vertical leap. That put him barely ahead of the first-day leaders, Portland Winterhawks defenseman Joseph Morrow and Saginaw Spirit forward Vincent Trocheck, who registered 30.3-inch leaps. Boston University defenseman Adam Clendening was fourth at 30.0 inches. Perhaps the most impressive performance of the Combine was turned in by the 5-foot-6 Grimaldi, who was fifth at 29.8 inches.

Curl-ups -- Three Finns owned this category. Karpat right wing Miikka Salomaki topped the list with 70, followed by JYP goaltender Samu Perhonen with 68, and Jokerit center Alexander Ruutuu with 66. Plymouth Whalers forward Rickard Rakell also had 66.

Grip strength -- The player you'd least like to shake hands with is Morrow, who measured 177 pounds with his right hand. The strongest overall grip, however, belonged to Prince Albert Raiders forward Mark McNeill, who was second to Morrow on right-hand grip at 162 pounds, and first with his left hand, also 162.

Bench press -- Clendening, McNeill, Saint John Sea Dogs forward Tomas Jurco and Seattle Thunderbirds center Luke Lockhart each did 13 reps with the 150-pound weight on the bench. Omaha Lancers forward Seth Ambroz, Northeastern defenseman Jamieson Oleksiak and RPI defenseman Patrick Koudys were next with 12.

Push-ups -- Kitchener Rangers goaltender Michael Morrison topped the field with 45, with Le Sieur second at 42. First-day leader Clendening finished third with 40, followed by Grimaldi with 39.

Push/Pull strength -- The hardest player to clear from the front of the net might be McNeill, who had 32 goals in 72 WHL games this season. His 366 pounds of push strength was far ahead of Oleksiak, who was next at 312. McNeill's pull strength of 306 pounds was second only to U.S. National Team forward Tyler Biggs, who totaled 323 pounds.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Saturday, 06.04.2011 / 2:34 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

The last competitor

After two days and 100 draft prospects, the final player stepped off the last bike. Windsor Spitfires forward Alexander Khokhlachev, No. 29 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American skaters for the 2011 Entry Draft, was the last player to finish his stint at the NHL Scouting Combine.

Khokhlachev said he had some advance warning -- he certainly had enough people to talk to about their testing experiences -- but said nothing really could have prepared him.

"They tell me what's happening here," he told NHL.com. "I know it's very hard. We just need to do this. Just all the scouts are here, and work hard.

"I work out, but never like this. I did push-ups, bench press. But not these bikes -- that's pretty hard."

Going last might have been even harder than any other competitor, because as Khokhlachev finished each exercise, the personnel from York Fitness, which oversees the testing for Central Scouting, was breaking down its equipment.

Khokhlachev said it didn't really bother him. "Just going and do your work," he said.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 06.04.2011 / 2:01 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

Binnington honest about his testing

While some players might try to gloss over their issues during the fitness testing at the NHL Scouting Combine, Owen Sound Attack goalie Jordan Binnington didn't find a need to hide.

"I got sick after both of them," he told NHL.com. "I guess they were both pretty tough."

Binnington, NHL Central Scouting's third-ranked North American goaltender for the 2011 Entry Draft, was in the second-to-last group Saturday, so that was a lot of time to hear stories from friends about what the testing would be like.

"(Daniel) Catenacci came back and he said, 'Holy (cow), it's tough, so long,'" said Binnington. "He got me all scared for it. Some guys were just like it's alright, you'll do fine. Dougie Hamilton was telling me you'll be alright, you'll do fine."

Even though he had little time to prepare for the Combine -- his team played in the Memorial Cup just nine days ago -- he felt pretty positive about his performance.

"I didn't have much time to prepare," he said. "No excuses. I worked my hardest."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 06.04.2011 / 12:13 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

Howson could have an active Draft

Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager Scott Howson currently holds the eighth pick of the 2011 Entry Draft. It doesn't mean he's going to be there by the time the 2011 Entry Draft starts.

"Possibly we'd look to move the pick -- even for a player, if we could," Howson told NHL.com. "We're open for anything. I don't think it's likely we'd move up, more likely we'd either make the pick or move back or perhaps trade it for a player."

Howson said if the Jackets stay at No. 8, he has an idea in mind on what kind of player he's looking for.

"We generally draft for best player available, but there are some positions we would like to fill with this pick and it seems like those positions will be available with the pick," he said. "If he's the best player on our board, that'll dictate it."

They got one of the best players on their board last year when they chose Portland Winterhawks center Ryan Johansen with the fourth pick. He finished seventh in the Western Hockey League with 92 points and second on his team with 40 goals, and his 28 points in 20 WHL playoff games led the league. He also had 9 points in seven games and made the all-tournament team playing for Canada at the 2011 World Junior Championship.

"He had a great year," said Howson. "We couldn't have written it down much better. Having the good year in Portland, being on a winning team, making the World Junior team, being a tournament all-star, leading the Western league in playoff scoring -- he's really made a statement this year."

Howson said Johansen will have every opportunity to make the NHL team this year.

"He'll be given him an opportunity to play," said Howson. "I think he's put himself into a very good position, and it'll be up to him in September to make sure he stays."

Who his teammates could be remains a question. Among the Jackets' unrestricted free agents are forwards Scottie Upshall, Chris Clark and Ethan Moreau, defensemen Jan Hejda and Craig Rivet, and goalie Mathieu Garon.

"I think we'll be fairly active in trying to improve certain areas of our team," said Howson. "We'll certainly talk to some of our free agents."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Saturday, 06.04.2011 / 11:53 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

Tampa scout Al Murray talks Draft, Brett Connolly

After serving for three years with Hockey Canada as the head scout of men's national teams, Al Murray will enter his first NHL Entry Draft with the Tampa Bay Lightning as the director of amateur scouting later this month.

"You always want to help try and make a statement for the organization and we've got great direction from the top," Murray told NHL.com. "Steve (Yzerman) has given us really good direction into the type of team he wants to put together and the attributes he wants us to look for in the player.

"We had a whole season to try and find those types of players and we have a group of them we'd like to get. We just hope everybody else in the League cooperates and leaves them there for us."

The Lighting own the No. 27 pick in the opening round of the 2011 Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., on June 24.

Murray was asked how well he felt last year's first-round draft choice, Brett Connolly, had improved and if he could be in the Lightning lineup next season.
Brett Connolly, Tampa Bay Lightning

"Steve's philosophy throughout the organization is to never rush anyone, but not to hold anyone back," Murray said. "Brett's made a big commitment this year. He's from Prince George, B.C., but he's in Toronto and has been here for a couple of weeks training with a personal trainer.

"He'll stay here for the summer; he's made a significant commitment to put himself in every position to try and make the team and to try and do as well as he can, so with added strength and confidence, we're anxious to see what he looks like in the fall training camp, but there will be no urgency to push Brett into a roster spot."

Murray confirmed that Connolly's hip issues, which limited him for much of the 2009-10 campaign, are ancient history.

"That really wasn't an issue all through last season," Murray said.

In his third season with the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League, Connolly produced 46 goals and 73 points in 59 games.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Saturday, 06.04.2011 / 11:19 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

Perhonen engineered way up leaderboard

The player with the MacGyver-inspired hair has engineered a way to take the lead in the curl-up competition here at the NHL Scouting Combine.

Finnish goaltender Samu Perhonen didn't need a paper clip, drinking straw, some gum and a comb to hit 68 curl-ups -- just hard work.

Perhonen, who plays for JYP in Finland's junior league, is NHL Central Scouting's top-rated European netminder. He said during the interview process, a team had asked him about his thick mane of blond locks.

"Someone asked me what the inspiration was for my hair style," Perhonen told NHL.com. "I said, 'I don't know, maybe MacGyver.'"

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 06.04.2011 / 9:43 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

Sharks looking for a match

For the second straight year, the San Jose Sharks have the 28th pick in the first round of the 2011 Entry Draft. Last year, they grabbed Charlie Coyle with that pick and watched him flourish as a freshman at Boston University and with the U.S. at the World Junior Championship.

Sharks GM Doug Wilson told NHL.com if he stays at No. 28 this year, he's sure he'll find another solid player. However, he's not afraid to move out of that spot -- either up or down.

"At 28 do we think we'll get a good player? Yes," Wilson said. "But if there's a player we need to move up a couple spots to get, we're willing to do that. And we're willing to move out of that spot and find a couple guys in the second round. We can do that, too."

Wilson said making that decision is two-fold -- obviously there has to be a player in mind, and he also has to find a willing partner to make a deal with.

"I think more and more teams are looking to do that," he said of moving at the draft. "It was tougher five or six years ago. I think there are more teams that are willing to look and be creative … It's matchmaking when you have those conversations."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Saturday, 06.04.2011 / 7:53 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

Right on the 'Button'

When asked to comment on the life of the late E.J. McGuire, NHL Network analyst Craig Button found just the right words.

"E.J. had foresight and he had vision," Button told NHL.com. "But more than that, he had a love for the future of the game and the future of the game is these young players. We spend too much time picking apart players; E.J. celebrated their gifts and qualities that were going to make them special in the NHL."
              Craig Button, NHL Network analyst

Button was working for both the NHL Network and TSN on Friday during the fitness-testing portion of the NHL Scouting Combine at the Toronto Congress Centre.

"This Combine was his vision," Button continued. "It was about making it more thorough, more complete, and giving the teams the information they needed. We talk about the interviewing and fitness testing portion of the Combine, but E.J. was one person who always considered the medical testing equally important. We don't have to go back very far to remember David Carle and how a medical test saved that young boy's life."

An abnormality in Carle's heart that put him at risk for sudden cardiac death if he exerted too much energy was first detected by doctors at the Combine in June, 2008, prompting a visit to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

NHL Central Scouting had Carle rated No. 60 among North American skaters that year, setting him up to go as high as the second round.

Thanks to McGuire's foresight, the young defenseman was properly diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy -- a thickening of the heart that had previously been cited in the sudden death of young athletes.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Friday, 06.03.2011 / 8:08 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

Top HS prospect gets schooled at Combine

Mario Lucia got his first real taste of what it will take to earn a roster spot with an NHL team.

Lucia, projected to be the first high school player off the board at the 2011 Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn., was one of six scholastic standouts invited to the NHL Scouting Combine this week.

As expected, the Combine experience was something the Wayzata (Minn.) High School junior won't soon forget.

"I'm going to get some rest and a nice hot shower," Lucia told the media following the completion of his fitness testing at the spacious Toronto Congress Centre.


"It was an honor to be here, fun and a dream come true," Lucia continued. "There are hundreds and thousands of players that would like to be here in my position, and I'm just living it up and soaking it all in right now."

The son of University of Minnesota coach Don Lucia offers an incredible release, smarts and knack for putting the puck in the net. He said the bike tests were the most strenuous.

"The VO2 test was easily the hardest; that combination of the Wingate and then getting little rest in between is just a deadly combination," Mario Lucia said. "The Wingate wasn't too bad since it was 30 seconds but that VO2 is intimidating … you just have to go as hard as you can and it's the mental part of it. It's not just going as hard as you can, it's trying to stay focused and not giving up."

Since the 2000 Draft, 156 high school players have been plucked from prep schools throughout the U.S. Since 2003, 135 players have been tabbed.

Lucia, a left wing rated No. 34 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters, had 25 goals and 47 points in 24 games at Wayzata. His team finished the season 20-6-2 following a 4-3 double-overtime loss to Eden Prairie in the Section 6AA championship at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis on March 2.

"I mean, everyone wants to be drafted in the first round and it would be a dream to go in the first round but my expectations are, hopefully, early second," Lucia said. "Either way, being drafted is an honor. It doesn't really mean anything at this point since you still have to work your way up there."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Friday, 06.03.2011 / 7:30 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

A look at the prospects who aced their Scouting Combine fitness tests

TORONTO -- The first day of NHL Scouting Combine fitness testing here at the Toronto Congress Centre has finished, so it's time to look at a few first-day leaders in some of the categories.

Peak power output -- The Wingate Cycle Ergometer -- also known as the bane of prospects' existence -- measures how hard a player can go in a 30-second shift. Portland Winterhawks forward Ty Rattie and Shawinigan Cataractes defenseman Jonathan Racine led the way at 15.9 watts of energy per kilogram of body weight.

VO2 Max test duration
-- The players who stuck with it the longest were a pair of defensemen, Skelleftea's Adam Larson and the Vancouver Giants' David Musil, each at 14 minutes. Next were Niagara IceDogs defenseman Dougie Hamilton and Saginaw Spirit forward Brandon Saad.

Wing span -- Moose Jaw Warriors defenseman Joel Edmundson, who stands 6-foot-4 1/2, had a 79.24-inch wing span, about a quarter-inch longer than Racine, who stands 6-1.

Body fat -- Rogle defenseman Rasmus Bengtsson measured in with only 3.6-percent body fat. The next leanest players were U.S. National Team forward Rocco Grimaldi and Saint John Sea Dogs forward Ryan Tesink at 6.8 percent.

Long jump -- Racine pops up again, setting the standard with 119.3 inches. U.S. National Team defenseman Connor Murphy was second at 115.5.

Vertical jump -- Portland defenseman Joseph Morrow and Saginaw Spirit forward Vincent Trocheck had the best hops, scoring 30.3-inch vertical leaps, just ahead of Boston University defenseman Adam Clendening, who went 30.0 inches. Perhaps the most impressive performance of the day was turned in by the 5-foot-6 Grimaldi, who tied Racine for fourth at 29.8 inches.

Curl-ups -- Swift Current Broncos defenseman Reece Scarlett led the way with 51, with Murphy second at 48.

Grip strength -- The player you'd least like to shake hands with is Morrow, who measured 177 pounds with his right hand. The strongest overall grip, however, belonged to Prince Albert Raiders forward Mark McNeill, who was second to Morrow on right-hand grip at 162 pounds, and first with his left hand, also 162.

Bench press -- Clendening, McNeill and Saint John Sea Dogs forward Tomas Jurco each did 13 reps with the 150-pound weight on the bench. Omaha Lancers forward Seth Ambroz and Northeastern defenseman Jamie Oleksiak were next with 12.

Push-ups
-- Clendening led the way with 40. Grimaldi was next with 39.

Push/pull strength
-- The hardest player to clear from the front of the net might be McNeill, who had 32 goals in 72 WHL games this season. His 366 pounds of push strength was far ahead of Oleksiak, who was next at 312. McNeill's pull strength of 306 pounds was second only to U.S. National Team forward Tyler Biggs, who totaled 323 pounds.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Friday, 06.03.2011 / 7:03 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

Bike tests drain Combine prospects

They refer to themselves as the "Dukes of Hurl."
 
In reality, Peter Becker and Sheldon Bonadie are certified exercise physiologists who just so happen to stick out like sore thumbs whenever the top hockey prospects in North America are forced to take the Wingate anaerobic bike measurement during the NHL Scouting Combine.
 
"It's a 30-second test and you go all out," Becker told NHL.com. "We motor with 9 percent of the player's body weight and we want to see how much power they can generate, how well they can sustain it over 30 seconds."

Becker and Bonadie aren't hard to find. They're the ones screaming at the top of their lungs at those prospects taking the Wingate test -- urging them to keep pushing, keep pedaling.
NHL hokcey draft prospect Ryan Nugent-Hopkins undergoes a physical test on a stationary bike at the NHL Scouting combine in Toronto on Friday, June 3 , 2011. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Chris Young)
 
"Scouts will use it to see their motivation, how well they're able to push themselves. They will also look to see what kind of power they can generate. In other words, how efficiently they're going to be in a 30-second shift, which is average."
 
Following the first day of testing here at the Toronto Congress Center, linemates Jonathan Huberdeau and Zack Phillips of the Saint John Sea Dogs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League earned the lowest fatigue index scores in the Wingate test. That's quite an accomplishment considering both players went the distance in capturing the Memorial Cup championship on Sunday against the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors.
 
Bonadie doesn't believe scouts take into account whether Wingate participants might get sick, which is how Becker came up with the name, "Dukes of Hurl." In fact, a large garbage can is strategically placed nearby to both Wingate testing bikes.
 
"It all depends on what the scouts want to take away from it because one scout may say 'that guy is weak for getting sick' and the other may think 'that's the kind of effort I want to get '… I want my guys to give it their all, so they may think of that as somebody who is going all out. Whether you get sick or not, it doesn't affect how the test is scored or how it's determined."
 
Northeastern University defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, the tallest draft-eligible player at 6-foot-7 and 244 pounds, was pretty proud of the fact he didn't lose his composure after the bike tests. 
 
"I was kind of knocked out after Wingate and a lot of guys were getting sick a couple of times and I thought I might have to do it but I was able to hold it in and I'm pretty proud of that I think," Oleksiak said.
 
Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson of Skelleftea in the Elitserien and David Musil of the Vancouver Giants in the Western Hockey League each lasted 14 minutes on the other strenuous bike exam -- the aerobic-max VO2 bike test, which measures the endurance capability of a player's heart, lungs and muscles.
 
"The VO2 test is terminated in one of two ways," said A.J. Rampersad, a graduate student at the York University Human performance Lab. "If they can't keep up with the speed or physically aren't able to continue and they just stop. This test proves to a scout the endurance of a player; how much they can last throughout the game, can withstand those overtimes and how quickly they can recover."

Kitchener Rangers forward Gabriel Landeskog seemed glad the fitness portion of the Scouting Combine had come to an end.
 
"It was fun, I tried to have a smile on my face as long as I could and obviously the bike tests are real killers, but other than that it was a good experience," Landeskog said.
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Friday, 06.03.2011 / 6:30 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

Clendening on the bubble?

Boston University defenseman Adam Clendening is ranked No. 45 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. But he's the kind of player who, with a good showing at the NHL Scouting Combine, could raise his stock in the eyes of the scouts watching him here on the first day of fitness testing.

Clendening certainly put on a strong performance. He did the most pushups of any of the 56 players tested Friday; he tied for the lead with 13 reps on the 150-pound bench press; and his 30.0-inch vertical leap was second on the day.

"If I am a bubble guy and you put a big performance out, it'll pop into their minds, perhaps that's the difference," said Clendening, who had 5 goals and 18 assists in 36 games as a freshman at BU. "I thought I did well today. Some of the guys in there were pretty encouraging. One guy said I got the record so far with the pushups and tied for the bench (lead). I thought the Wingate (bike) went well, the VO2 (bike test) I went until I almost passed out. I went as hard as I could."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Friday, 06.03.2011 / 6:10 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

Coyotes considering move -- at Draft

Phoenix Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney said holding the 20th pick at the 2011 Entry Draft, as well as a pair of second-round picks, puts his team in a pretty advantageous spot.

"I like where we sit," Maloney told NHL.com during the fitness testing at the Toronto Congress Centre. "There's a lot of intriguing players that are going to be (available). It's an interesting spot to be in. We have two second-round picks. I know what'll happen -- we'll have the ability to move up in the draft, realistically we could move up five or six spots -- probably the most you could move up. Basically taking one of our seconds and our first, so somebody would have to drop to 20 and get a second-round pick. I know that'll be available to us depending on how the draft flows. On the other hand, we're not against looking and saying 'hey, we're at 20 to go to 25 or 26 or 27.' That could happen, too, to gain another asset in the second round."

While Maloney said he's open to moving back, he doubts he'll move out of the first round with any deal he might make.

"What you do when you get to your list, we might have a guy there at 16 that's a little under the radar, you take a risk to go back, maybe to 25, but 30 and beyond, that's a big drop," he said. "Probably that's too dramatic. Last year we traded down with Montreal, we we're sitting at 27 and we had the ability … the Islanders offered us three picks to drop back. We knew Visentin was a little high where we took him. It was up to (director of amateur scouting) Keith Gretzky and his staff. I said guys, here's an ability to trade down and get a couple second and I might have been able to do better than that, but they said no. We want to take the player. That drop --  we thought there's too much risk to get the guy we really wanted."

Maloney said wherever he ends up in the first round, he's got an idea of the kind of player he'll be looking for.

"We're not looking at a goaltender in an early round, that's a given this year based on what we did with Mark Visentin last year," Maloney said of the goaltender the Coyotes picked at No. 27 in 2010. "We would prefer, if it comes down to all things being equal, we might prefer a centerman to a winger, or we might prefer a defenseman to a winger. Either way, it's find the best top two-line forward or top-four defenseman, that's what we try to find where we're drafting."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.
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Posted On Friday, 06.03.2011 / 4:04 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

No betting in Portland

Four members of the Portland Winterhawks were invited to the Combine, but only three -- Joe Morrow, Sven Baertschi and Ty Rattie -- took part in the fitness testing today. Tyler Wotherspoon passed due to injuries suffered during the WHL playoffs.

Among the three Winterhawks going through the fitness circuit, no wagers were put down on who would perform best on any event, or who could keep their breakfast down after bike tests.

"We support each other," Morrow told NHL.com. "It's more a friendly competition than anything more than that."

Morrow and Baertschi were in the same group, with Rattie about two hours behind them. Morrow said he would give Rattie a few details about the testing -- some real, some a bit of an exaggeration.

"I might tell him it's a little worse than it is just to scare him a little bit," Morrow said with a laugh.

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Posted On Friday, 06.03.2011 / 2:06 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

Goalie test

The bike tests at the Scouting Combine are a nice opportunity to test skaters' endurance and recovery time between shifts. But how does it work for goaltenders?
 
"It was pretty rough," said John Gibson, NHL Central Scouting's top-rated North American goaltender. "Bikes are tough."
 
For a player who won't skate much more than a few feet most of the game, testing for speed bursts isn't something he'll have to worry about.
 
"Doesn't really go through your head in the moment, you just want to do the best you can," he said. "But now that I look back on it, it comes in your head, 'What did I do that for?' It gets you in shape, that's all that matters."
 
Contact Adam Kimelman at
akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Friday, 06.03.2011 / 1:18 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

Nugent-Hopkins on the bench

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins accepts the fact that he'll never win any power-lifting competitions.
 
"I'm not a big bench press guy, as you can probably tell," he joked with reporters yesterday. But as one scout said, until a barbell starts scoring goals, he'll worry about bench press totals another time.
 
When Nugent-Hopkins' turn came on the bench, he did about six reps with the 150-pound bar. But his ability on a bench isn't why he's NHL Central Skating's top-ranked North American skater and a candidate to be the first pick of the draft next month.

"It went all right," he said after finishing the fitness testing circuit. "I don't have the biggest chest out there, so I didn't lift the most on the bench press, but I did alright."
 
Nugent-Hopkins is listed at 164 pounds, but he says he's put on five pounds since the season ended, and believes he could put on another five to 10 before next season starts. So he's not spending a lot of time worrying about how much bigger or stronger he might have to be to play in the NHL next season.
 
"I think about it a little bit," he said. "I'm not going to stress too much about it. I'm working hard at it, I'm trying to put on the weight and put on some strength. That's all I can do."
 
Contact Adam Kimelman at
akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Friday, 06.03.2011 / 12:10 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

First through the Combine

Youngstown Phantoms defenseman Scott Mayfield, No. 24 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2011 Entry Draft, had the privilege of being the first player to complete the fitness testing circuit at the NHL Scouting Combine.
 
"It felt good," he said. "I'm done. I got it out of the way. I'll be on a plane home while some of the kids are still testing, so that's nice."
 
The fitness testing for the first time was held in a larger room at the Toronto Congress Centre, but a larger room allowed for more scouts, general managers and media to pack the room.
 
"That was new to me," Mayfield said. "You're definitely in the spotlight out here. I enjoyed it, though. It's something to compete in and I want to see how my results turned out against all the other kids here."
 
Like most of the prospects, the two bike tests -- the Wingate Cycle Ergometer, which measures a player's power output during a 30-second burst, and the VO2 Max test, which measures a player's endurance -- were the toughest.
 
"The bike tests are, of course, the hardest and I was on the bike quite a bit the last two months leading up to this," Mayfield said. "I think I did good. They didn't tell us our results, we won't get to see those just yet. I was happy with what I did. I definitely tried my hardest."
 
He had no shortage of motivation -- two trainers were screaming at jet-engine decibels inches from his face. 
 
"I got a personal trainer at home who told me to keep going … they told me they were going to be pretty loud," he said. "I said, be really loud, that pushes you that much harder. They were pretty loud in my ear."
 
Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Friday, 06.03.2011 / 10:08 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

Fun, fashion and bike riding with top prospects

NHL.com videographer Steven Hoffner came up with a great idea -- take two of the top prospects here at the NHL Scouting Combine to the Eaton Centre, the biggest mall in Canada, conveniently located in downtown Toronto.
 
We piled into a rented Buick with Gabriel Landeskog and Mika Zibanejad, who have known each other since they were 8-year-olds growing up and playing hockey together in Stockholm. Landeskog, who plays for the OHL's Kitchener Rangers, is NHL Central Scouting's No.2-ranked North American skater in its final rankings for the 2011 Entry Draft, while Zibanejad is the No. 2-ranked European skater.
 
How did it go? Well the video here tells the story better than I can, but I'll try filling in a few blanks on a video shoot that had a little bit of everything.
 

Our first stop was H&M, a Swedish clothing store. We got the guys looking at jeans and ties and trying on a few hats and glasses. Landeskog, who you would think would be a familiar face in Toronto due to his success in the OHL, was recognized, but not for his hockey skills. A gentlemen saying he was representative of a modeling agency approached Landeskog and asked him if he would be interested in being a model. Landeskog politely declined, but I guess if the hockey thing doesn't work out, he's got a second career lined up.
 
Our next stop was music store HVM. Zibanejad eyed an Adam Lambert CD, while Landeskog found a Queen CD, and made sure to note that former teammate Jeff Skinner was a fan. And as a fitting cliché, the two young Swedes spent the most time with an ABBA CD.
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Posted On Friday, 06.03.2011 / 6:59 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

Infamous bike tests loom for young prospects

In the summer before the 2010 NHL Scouting Combine in Toronto, Plymouth Whalers center Tyler Seguin opted to give the aerobic-max VO2 bike test a shot "just for fun" with his agency.

Those familiar with the test, which measures the endurance capability of a player's heart, lungs and muscles, knows it happens to be the most grueling of all the endurance tests conducted by York University for the benefit of the 30 NHL teams.

"I ended up throwing up after the VO2 (during the practice run)," Seguin said. "It's very difficult. You try to stay positive. I talked to guys who did it the year before my draft year and talked to guys who did it for practice. They said the bike tests are pretty hard. You have casual stuff, like bench press, push-ups, sit-ups, which you've done before. But the bikes are quite tough."

Seguin survived the Combine phase of the bike test and would ultimately be chosen second overall by the Boston Bruins at the 2010 Entry Draft at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Last year, six players lasted more than 14 minutes on the VO2, led by Slovakian defenseman Martin Marcincin, (14:15), who was drafted by the Oilers in the second round (No. 46 overall). Halifax Mooseheads goaltender Mathieu Corbeil-Theriault, taken by Columbus in the fourth round (No. 102 overall), went 14:03.

Four players went exactly 14 minutes -- South Shore forward Charlie Coyle (San Jose, first round, No. 28 overall), AIK defenseman Patrik Nemeth (Dallas, second round, No. 41 overall), Moose Jaw Warriors defenseman Dylan McIlrath (New York Rangers, first round, No. 10 overall) and Medicine Hat Tigers right wing Emerson Etem (Anaheim Ducks, first round, No. 29 overall).

NHL Central Scouting's No. 1-rated North American skater, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of Red Deer, is looking forward to the bike tests. Nugent-Hopkins is actually one of eight prospects ready to hit the fitness testing portion of the Combine first on Friday. Included in that group are Tyler Biggs, Mark McNeill, Logan Shaw, Rocco Grimaldi, Nicholas Shore, Scott Mayfield and Jamieson Oleksiak.

"I've heard about the bike tests (Wingate anaerobic measure and aerobic-max VO2) and I know they'll be pretty tough, but I think my cardio is pretty good so I should be OK on the VO2," Nugent-Hopkins told NHL.com. "But the Wingate is pretty tough. I'm trying to prepare myself for that, but I guess you never can prepare yourself enough for it."

It isn't too uncommon to see a few players cradling a trash can following the Wingate test, an obvious indication that their body has had enough.

"I've heard stories (regarding the bike tests) that haven't been too positive," said No. 31-ranked North American skater Seth Ambroz of the USHL's Omaha Lancers. "But it'll be fun to see what happens. I'm not too worried about it. I'm just going to go there and give them all I've got."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Thursday, 06.02.2011 / 4:24 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

Binnington 'drafted' by Hockey Canada

Jordan Binnington, NHL Central Scouting's third-ranked goaltender, was announced today as one of 10 goalies invited to Hockey Canada's summer goaltending camp. It's the first step in the tryout process for Canada's 2012 World Junior Championship team.

Binnington, who plays for the OHL's Owen Sound Attack, is the only one of the 10 eligible for the 2011 Entry Draft. Eight have been drafted or signed by NHL teams; only Belleville Bulls goalie Malcolm Subban doesn't have an NHL affiliation as he doesn't become draft-eligible until next year.

"I'm pretty excited about it," Binnington told NHL.com. "It's a great opportunity for me to showcase myself. Obviously I'm young … chances are slim for me, but I'm going to show what I can do and hopefully we'll see what happens from there."

Other goaltenders invited are Mississauga's J.P. Anderson (Sharks), University of Denver's Sam Brittian (Panthers), Medicine Hat's Tyler Bunz (Oilers), Quebec's Louis Domingue (Coyotes), Seattle's Calvin Pickard (Avalanche), Everett's Kent Simpson (Blackhawks) and Niagara's Mark Visentin (Coyotes).

Hockey Canada also invited six goalies to the same camp as a tryout for the summer under-18 team that will represent Canada at August's Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. None of that group is eligible until next year's draft: Daniel Altshuller, Nepean (CCHL), Chris Driedger, Tri-City (WHL), Alex Dubeau, Shawinigan (QMJHL), Domenic Graham, Drummondville (QMJHL), Matt Murray, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL), Francois Tremblay, Val-d'Or (QMJHL).

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Thursday, 06.02.2011 / 4:13 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

RPI's Patrick Koudys: Last but not least

Defenseman Patrick Koudys of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute might have been the last North American skater invited to the NHL Scouting Combine in Toronto this week, but don't expect him to settle for anything less than his finest effort.

"I'm excited to be here," Koudys told NHL.com. "It wasn't guaranteed that I'd come here so for the tests, hopefully I'll perform well. The interviews are also a big part of this. I'm just hoping to be myself and hopefully a team will like me for me and that's all I could ask for right now."

As a freshman, Koudys had a goal and a pair of assists in 31 games with RPI in 2010-11 -- all his points came in 19 ECAC contests. In addition participating in the Scouting Combine, Koudys was also a participant in the NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp last summer.

Koudys, a civil engineering major, has every intention of continuing his career at RPI in the fall despite the fact he was drafted 124th overall by the Oshawa Generals in the 2009 OHL draft. He chose to follow the same path as his father's cousin, Randy Koudys, and attend RPI.

"Personally, it was good year, we had a great team, great coaching staff, and we made it to the NCAA tournament, which is a big thing," he said. "I learned a lot, the coaching staff was great to me. They taught me a lot and the guys were great. I'm looking forward to going back and winning a national championship next year."

Before going to RPI, he spent a season with the Burlington Cougars and transformed into one of the team's best players, scoring 5 goals and 33 points. He was also the Cougars' most reliable defenseman, evidenced by the fact he was named the club's Most Promising Player, Top Defenseman and Rookie of the Year. Koudys, who is sometimes compared to Boston blueliner Dennis Seidenberg, was also named the Ontario Hockey Association Top Prospect, that season.

Koudys isn't concerned with the fact he dropped five slots to No. 76 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters.

"With a college kid like that, you have to like his potential as much as anything because he's a first year college guy and he's in the lineup regularly but doesn't always get in on every shift," Central Scouting's Gary Eggleston told NHL.com. "He's going to be a strong player in college next year as he gets a little more time to develop. He has really good upside, a really strong skater, good defensively. He was a little bit restrained offensively but I think he can still go with the puck and contribute to the offense. He's a pretty physical kid, strong in the corners and capable of moving to the puck quickly. He played with a lot of poise for a freshman."

His father, Jim, was drafted in the 12th round (No. 252 overall) by the New York Islanders in 1982 and played hockey for the OHL's Sudbury Wolves for three seasons (1981-84).

"I know I'm the last North American to be invited to this, so there's still lots of room for me to grow," he said. "I learned a lot at RPI this year and, hopefully , I'll go back and learn a lot more. I think teams will see that in the next couple of years when I'm able to step up and be a more of a big-name person."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Thursday, 06.02.2011 / 12:59 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

Blues' clues

The St. Louis Blues are one of four teams that don't have a first-round pick at the 2011 Entry Draft -- the 11th pick belongs to Colorado from the Erik Johnson-Chris Stewart trade -- but Blues GM Doug Armstrong believes he might have the ammunition to change that.

The Blues have three second-round picks and a pair of third-round selections, and Armstrong said that could be enough to entice a team to part with one of its top-round picks.

"With the possibility of the way our picks are clumped together there's the potential to move up into the first round, we believe," Armstrong told NHL.com. "We approach it pretty well the same way. You still have to do your homework; you never know what's going to transpire at the draft table. We're approaching it the same way as if we had a first pick. My experience shows me where you think you can move to in the first round with the assets we have and we'll focus in that area."

Armstrong said his targets could be the Avalanche, Senators, Oilers and Maple Leafs -- all of which with multiple first-round picks.

"The teams that have multiple first-round picks might want to consider moving back and gaining extra second-round picks," said Armstrong. "It all really depends on how those teams have their lists."

While he said getting into the first round is a hope, it's not an imperative, because the player available at 23 or 24 could be just as good as the player available 43 or 44.

"There's really good depth in this draft," Armstrong said. "Our scouting staff has a belief where certain players will go. There's a range that if we can move up to we'd like to get into (but) history has shown that players that go in the early 30s have the same success as players that go in the early 20s. You just have to do your homework, know your players and understand what you're looking for in an NHL player."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Thursday, 06.02.2011 / 8:19 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

Saint John salutes their boys

It began with unexpected anticipation. It ended up being a memory that would last a lifetime.

An estimated 10,000 fans of the Saint John Sea Dogs flooded King's Square, the Market Square boardwalk and lined King and Charlotte streets in downtown Saint John Tuesday afternoon to pay tribute to their boys for bringing home the President's Cup and the Memorial Cup.

Local reports had police blocking off parts of 10 streets for the parade that, according to Sgt. Rick Caswell of the Saint John Police Force, was the largest gathering of people on the city streets since 2001 when a parade was held for the Calder Cup-winning Saint John Flames.
Sea Dogs Steven Anthony, Mike Thomas enjoy Parade

"It was unbelievable," forward Ryan Tesink told NHL.com. "We felt like Gods. We had about six vehicles, including a fire truck, and three or four of us each were on one. We're not the biggest city and in the middle of the day on a Tuesday … I was impressed. I grew up (in Saint John) my whole life."

Tesink, the fourth-line forward who struck for 35 points in 59 regular-season games for the Sea Dogs, was also the focus of one of the more noticeable signs amidst the sea of blue and white colors.

"One sign out there read, "Tesink for Mayor", said the 5-foot-11, 157 pound Tesink. "I thought that was funny and the boys loved that one. I was so proud to be a St. Johner during that parade. I couldn't believe the support. We had about 500 fans come to the final (in Mississauga) and everyone flew or some drove and spent a lot of money to watch us win that (Memorial Cup). That means the world to me."

Three men dressed in blue spandex suits, perhaps descendants of the green men milling around at Vancouver Canucks hockey games, ran along the parade route prior to the players making their presence.

"It was incredible," defenseman Nathan Beaulieu said. "It was good to get back to all of the fans for all their support all year and it was nice to just bring the Cup home. I was on the top of a fire truck looking over the whole city, so that was pretty cool. You see people and then see more people and you just feel like the parade went on forever. It's a moment I'll never forget."

"I didn't really know what to expect because sometimes some of those things can be a little bit boring," Zack Phillips said. "But that was anything but boring. It was a beautiful day and we're all in shorts and T-shirts and sunglasses, on top of fire trucks, honking horns and sitting on convertibles or in the backs of SUV's just having an unbelievable time. The support they showed was amazing … we were taking videos of the crowd and ourselves. It was fantastic."

Jonathan Huberdeau, who was named the tournament's MVP after collecting 3 goals and 6 points in 4 games, was overwhelmed.

The 18-year-old from St-Jerome, Quebec, ranked No. 3 by NHL Central Scouting among North American skaters, had a goal and one assist in the 3-1 Championship Final victory over the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors on May 29.

"It was nice to see all the fans in Saint John," Huberdeau said. " It was nice to share the Cup. The people were waving at you and congratulating you and that they care about you. Our fans deserved that and to share it with them was nice."

Six players, including Huberdeau, Beaulieu, Phillips, Tesink, Tomas Jurco and Scott Oke, arrived in Toronto for the NHL Scouting Combine on Wednesday. Each had several interviews scheduled Wednesday and Thursday.

Phillips (upper body injury) said he wouldn't be participating in the bench press portion of the fitness testing on Friday, but admitted there's a good chance he and his teammates will be taking part in the bike tests. Unlike most other players participating at the Combine, the Sea Dogs and Majors went the distance this season -- finishing up on the last possible day (May 29) before the start of the Combine (on May 30).

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Wednesday, 06.01.2011 / 5:49 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

Another Subban nears Draft day

While scouts and fans are focused on the 2011 Entry Draft, there's a familiar name getting ready for the 2012 Draft.

Malcolm Subban, younger brother of Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, on Wednesday visited the Westin Bristol Place, home of this week's NHL Scouting Combine, to get a feel for an event he'll almost certainly be invited to next season.

Subban spent his first Ontario Hockey League season with the Belleville Bulls in 2010-11. In 32 games, he went 10-17-2 with a 3.16 goals-against average and .900 save percentage. He also earned an invitation to Hockey Canada's summer goaltending camp, which could see him earn the chance to audition for a spot on Canada's 2012 World Junior Championship team.

Before that, though, there was a little shopping trip around the mini-Reebok store set up in a hotel ballroom. Subban tried out gear and checked out some of the stuff pros like Roberto Luongo, Marc-Andre Fleury and Ryan Miller use. He even pulled on a Miller Buffalo Sabres jersey.


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Posted On Wednesday, 06.01.2011 / 8:06 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

Mayfield reflects on tragedy in home state Missouri

In addition to thinking about what the NHL Scouting Combine has in store for him this week, Youngstown Phantoms defenseman Scott Mayfield has also been pondering issues much closer to home these days.

The St. Louis native, rated No. 24 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters, resides just three hours East of Joplin, Mo., where the tragic EF-5 tornado resulted in the death of at least 125 persons, over 750 injuries, and major damage to countless homes and businesses.

"I didn't have any family or friends affected by the tornado but it was just horrible … I was watching all day on television," Mayfield told NHL.com. "The strange thing is, a lot of tornadoes have come through Missouri this year. A guy right down the street from us had shingles ripped off his roof that are still in my yard from a tornado that hit weeks ago, but the one that hit Joplin was a lot more serious."


Mayfield has been hard at work over the last month preparing his body for the rigors of the Combine, which is slated May 30 through June 4 in Toronto. He arrived in Toronto on Tuesday evening, all smiles, in obvious anticipation of the big week ahead.

The trip to the Combine is not Mayfield's first trip to an NHL event held in Toronto. At the start of the season, he took part in the NHL's Research, Development and Orientation Camp.

"The VO2 max (bike test) is probably the most important one so that's something I've been training for," he said. "It's kind of different training when you know the exercise you're training for. It's fun at the same time doing the different exercises. We're at the bike a lot during the season, but we never do a Wingate or VO2 max, so I'm having fun doing it with my trainer."

Mayfield explained his training regimen in his monthly blog for NHL.com. Read it here!

"While you want to make sure you're ready the best you can be, I'm not looking at not trying to get stronger while doing 100 pushups for the sake of the Combine," Mayfield said. "I'm actually still trying to get stronger and put on weight so I think I'm ready and excited for it."

Mayfield dressed in 52 games and tallied 7 goals and 16 points in his second season with the Phantoms. He connected for 3 goals and 8 points on the power-play. A skilled, intelligent defender with good size (6-3 1/2, 197 pounds), Mayfield was named MVP for Team USA at the 2010 World Jr. A Challenge after the team claimed its third straight gold medal in November.

He'll likely attend the University of Denver next fall, where he hopes to earn a role along the blueline. He admitted he might look to major or concentrate on hotel and restaurant management.

"I found that school pretty interesting and pretty cool," Mayfield said. "It's something I could use as a backup to professional hockey."

In addition to Mayfield, Denver's coaching staff might also be high on another incoming recruit on defense in Joey Laleggia of the Penticton Vees in the British Columbia Hockey League. Laleggia, who had 20 goals and 82 points in 58 games this season, has racked up 147 points in 114 career games in three seasons with the Vees.

"I know (Denver), of course, is waiting to see how everything turns out," Mayfield said. "I know there's another recruit who's highly offensive in Joey Laleggia. I don't think they're looking at me too hard as an offensive-type defender … just kind of an all-around game like I've been the last two years. I'm not all a stay-at-home type of player, I play offensive as well. But I play defense too."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Wednesday, 06.01.2011 / 1:13 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

Devils continuing to write their book

New Jersey Devils scouting director David Conte was asked if his goal for next month's draft is to find a player that could skate into the NHL next season.

"No," he told NHL.com. "It's a goal to find a guy who can play 20 seasons."

It's interesting Conte picked that number. The Devils have the fourth pick at the 2011 Entry Draft, the first time they've earned a spot so high since 1989. They had the fifth pick that year and selected forward Bill Guerin, who nearly played 20 seasons -- he retired in December 2010 after 18 NHL seasons.

(The Devils drafted third in 1991, but acquired that pick in a trade.)

Conte, going into his 18th year leading the Devils' drafts, said picking this early in the draft really doesn't change much about how he does his job.

"it's certainly easier in the sense that you don't have as many players to consider," he said. "It's also more important because the quality of the player, at least at this stage in time, seemingly is better, higher upside, and more critical to the team because you need to improve. How we go about it? No, I don't think we need to make too many adaptations to what we've done in the past."

Conte said he and his staff is considering a group of 8-12 players for the fourth pick, but isn't prepared to start narrowing that list yet. He's using this week's NHL Scouting Combine to continue compiling information, and said when he leaves Toronto, he likely won't have crossed any names off his list.

"We have the interviews, the testing -- the book's not complete, so what's the point of trying to figure it out?" he said. "I talk to people … why do you open your Christmas presents before Christmas? There's no need."

While it's possible New Jersey's first pick could be in the opening-day lineup, Devils fans shouldn't expect the Christmas present they see in June to be available to play with in October.

"In an ideal world you'd like to give them more seasoning," said Conte, who then added the choice wasn't really his to make.

"Players will pick the team. We won't."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.31.2011 / 10:02 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

Rocco Grimaldi: A 'huge' threat for Team USA

After having just completed his fourth of 12 team interviews in his initial day at the NHL Scouting Combine, Rocco Grimaldi had a satisfied look on his face.

Despite being listed as the smallest player invited to the Combine at 5-foot-6, 163 pounds, Grimaldi has certainly earned the reputation as a big-game performer. Why else would all 30 NHL teams request an interview with the leading scorer for the U.S. National Team Development Program in 2010-11.


"It's great to always be the underdog and have people doubt you," Grimaldi told NHL.com. "But I think I could also be a role model for kids my size, not even in hockey, but in general. I could be a really good example for them on how I go about my business, not caring about what people say, and how I live my life. I'm always thinking about the next generation under me and trying to help them out as well."

Grimaldi was asked if those scouts from the Tampa Bay Lightning referred to Martin St. Louis at some point during their discussion.

"They said one of their best players is St. Louis, he's the leader of that group and we don't care about size," Grimaldi said. "Our best player is the smallest guy on the ice and we love small guys and that was a cool thing to hear. That motivates me because playing in the NHL has always been my dream. So whatever it takes to achieve it ..."

Grimaldi is certainly on that path after striking for a team-leading 34 goals, 62 points, 13 power-play goals, and five game-winners in 50 games for the USNTDP this season.

"He's definitely a character kid and great guy," USNTDP goalie John Gibson said. "He's small, but probably has the biggest heart on the team."

"He was a dynamic guy, an outstanding skater, quick and around the puck all the time," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com. "He wasn't scared to get involved in battles and go to the net."

Grimaldi played a big part of the gold medal-winning Team USA in the 2010 Under-18 World Championship in Belarus, tying for the team lead with 10 points in seven games. He'd connect for 2 goals, 8 points and a plus-5 rating in another gold-medal winning effort at the 2011 U-18 World Championship in Germany.

"The game has changed since the lockout; it's more of a high-end skilled game and smaller guys are making names for themselves in the League with St. Louis and Nathan Gerbe," Grimaldi said. "That's great to see those guys having an impact. It's really good for me, being a small guy, and seeing how others are able to make an impact right away.

Grimaldi, committed to the University of North Dakota, atones for his small frame with exceptional speed and shiftiness.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.31.2011 / 9:55 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

What's the Flyers' plan?

The Philadelphia Flyers won't make their first selection at the 2011 Entry Draft until late in the third round, but that hasn't stopped GM Paul Holmgren from taking the time to interview some of the top prospects here in Toronto at the NHL Scouting Combine.

"We've been spending time talking to guys that are going to go high in the first round because you never know," Holmgren told NHL.com. "We're here, all these players are here, might as well get to know them a little bit. You never know. Even if you don't draft a guy or move up, you never know what might come down the road, in a trade, maybe it's two or three years from now. Any time you get a chance to interact with these young players it's good."

Holmgren referenced the 2002 Entry Draft as an example of the unpredictability of the draft. That year, he was the club's assistant GM when the team didn't have a first-round pick but did have a pair of second-round choices. On draft day, they sent those choices along with forward Ruslan Fedotenko to the Tampa Bay Lightning for the fourth pick of the draft and selected Joni Pitkanen.

"You have to approach it like anything can happen," said Holmgren. "That's the way we've always done it. You never really do know what might happen. We went into the draft in 2002 and we ended up with the fourth pick. You have to know the players. Scouts have their jobs to do. They continue to do them, look at all the players and prepare for any scenario that might come up."

Holmgren said he didn't know how possible it would be for him to move up. He traded first- and third-round picks to Toronto in the Kris Versteeg deal, and their second-round pick was sent to Phoenix in 2009 as part of the Daniel Carcillo trade.

"You never know what might happen," said Holmgren. "It varies. Certain teams are in different spots. I just think you need to be open-minded about these things. Are first-round picks coveted? I would say sometimes yes, sometimes no."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Monday, 05.30.2011 / 6:23 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

Time with Tallon

TORONTO -- Dale Tallon wore No. 19 for most of his NHL career, but he's come to be more associated with the number 3.

That's because for the second straight year, Tallon, the general manager of the Florida Panthers, holds the No. 3 pick of the Draft.

And before that, when he was the GM of the Chicago Blackhawks, he had the third pick of the 2007 Entry Draft. That worked out pretty well, when he chose Jonathan Toews. And the early returns on last year's third pick, defenseman Erik Gudbranson, look pretty good.

Will he have the same success with the third pick this year? Tallon is confident he will.

"I think it's a very good position to be in this year," Tallon told NHL.com on Monday, the first day of the NHL Scouting Combine. "We're going to get a good player there."

The third pick isn't the only one the Panthers have. For the second straight year, Florida has double-digit picks. After making 13 selections last year, they have 10 picks this year -- besides their first-round choice, they have two picks in the second round and four in the third.

And if Tallon has his way, they'll have even more choices when the teams convene at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., on June 24-25.

"If we can achieve that and get a couple more picks this year, that would give us 24, 25 picks in a year -- that's like four drafts," he said. "That really can set us up or the future and give us a strong foundation. That's what we're doing."

Building from the draft up is part of Tallon's rebuilding plan in Florida, which started a year ago when he was hired. It's the same philosophy he used to rebuild the Blackhawks when he was hired as that team's GM in 2005. In his tenure in Chicago, the Hawks added such key components as Toews, Patrick Kane and Niklas Hjalmarsson, to go along with Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Troy Brouwer and Dustin Byfuglien, who were drafted while Tallon was assistant GM in Chicago.

His work in Florida started last year with Gudbranson, a 6-foot-4, 195-pound defenseman with a powerful shot and a nasty edge to his game. Gudbranson had a strong training camp, but was sent back to Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League when he and the team couldn't agree on a contract. He totaled 34 points and 105 penalty minutes in 44 games, and 5 points in seven games for Canada at the 2011 World Junior Championship.

Tallon said he expects Gudbranson to be in South Florida to start 2011-12.

"We're happy with this development and we'll get him taken care of in the next little while, get him signed up," Tallon said. "He's a big part of our future. He's a core guy for us. He's got captaincy-type material as far as character on and off the ice. We think he's going to be a great player for us."

He has high hopes for his two other first-round picks, centers Nick Bjugstad and Quinton Howden.

Bjugstad, a 6-foot-4, 188-pound center taken with the 19th pick, had 8 goals and 12 assists in 29 games as a freshman at the University of Minnesota, and had 2 goals and 2 assists in six games in helping the U.S. win the bronze medal at the 2011 World Junior Championship.

Howden, a 6-2, 182-pound center taken with the 29th pick, had a team-best 40 goals in 60 games for the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors and he had 2 goals and 3 assists to help Canada win the silver medal at the 2011 WJC.

They weren't the only successes.

"(John) McFarland had a good second half in Saginaw and (Alex) Petrovic had good numbers in Red Deer. … We're happy with all of them. Every one of those kids we drafted had good years last year in their respective leagues and their development has come along nicely. (Director of Player Development) Brian Skrudland has done a real nice job for us in that regard, keeping an eye on those kids and giving them information and mentoring them and helping them along so they've all had a better understanding of what's expected of them. We're happy. We kept a close eye on them. It's important. We don't want them to get astray and get some bad habits. We want them to get a pro and a Panther state of mind. That's what we're trying to instill in our people. And change the whole perception and culture that we have in Florida."

One of the common factors in last year's draft was a combination of size and skill. Eight of their 13 picks were taller than 6-2 and six weigh at least 190 pounds. This year, however, Tallon said the accent might be placed more on skill.

"Probably going to go for more speed and skill," said Tallon. "That's one thing we don't have a lot of, offense yet. We're going to look at probably the same character and same traits but probably go with more speed and skill to offset the size we drafted last year. But it won't preclude us from drafting some big, strong guys this year.

Tallon sees his renovation work in Florida on same path as the one that ended with Stanley Cup glory in Chicago.

"I think it's very similar," Tallon said. "I think the difference moving forward (in Florida) is the flexibility we have contract-wise. We have, depending on what the (salary cap) floor is, just to get to the floor we'll have to spend anywhere from $28 to $30 million -- that's the difference. That can afford us to get some good 27-, 28-, 29-year-old free agents that can be leaders of our team."

In Chicago he added free agents Nikolai Khabibulin, Cristobal Huet, Brian Campbell and Antti Niemi to his home-grown group. Tallon said he plans on being just as active with the Panthers. One of the positions he'll look at closest is in goal. Veteran starter Tomas Vokoun can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, but the team's top prospect is goalie Jacob Markstrom. Also, backup Scott Clemmensen has one year left on his contract.

"We're going to look at Tomas, we're going to look at everything available," said Tallon. "Free agency, trade, those are the ways we're going to see what best suits our situation with young goaltenders with Markstrom, (Sam) Brittain and (Brian) Foster in our system. We have some good young goaltenders. And Scott Clemmensen is a very good backup goaltender, had a good year for us. We're going to get a top goalie. If it's Tomas, great, but we don't know. We're going to talk to him as well."

Beside the player side, Tallon also needs to find a coach. Since firing Peter DeBoer following last season's 14th place finish in the Eastern Conference, Tallon said it's "been an exhaustive search," but hoped to have a new coach in place prior to next month's draft.

"We've talked to and interviewed a tremendous number of quality candidates," said Tallon. "The good thing is we have a lot of guys that want to come to Florida and see us turn this around. That's the good news."

While he might have a young team for the 2011-12 season, he said he doesn't necessarily need a young coach to grow with his players.

"We need a good teacher and a good communicator," he said. "It doesn't matter, the age. I don't look at age as a factor. … I want to have somebody that can relate to young guys and have respect of elder players."

Once he has that in place, Tallon can work on finding a new number to be associated with.

"I don't want to be picking there (No. 3) ever again, unless we get it in a trade," said Tallon. "We need to start moving up the ladder. Been at the front row enough; it was nice being in the back row. That's the goal."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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Posted On Monday, 05.30.2011 / 3:02 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

Which prospects are staying busy?

The interview process at the NHL Scouting Combine gives teams a chance to meet as many of the top prospects for the 2011 Entry Draft as possible. Some teams see lots of kids, while others have specific targets in mind.

Apparently, lots of teams are interested in four particular players.

Sarnia Sting forward Brett Ritchie is one of four players that will meet with 29 of the 30 teams during the Combine. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound right wing had 21 goals and 20 assists in just 49 OHL games this season, but broke out in a big way for Canada at the World Under-18 Championships, finishing with 4 goals and 3 assists in seven games as Canada finished fourth. He's No. 36 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the Draft.

Three Swedish players also will meet with 29 of the 30 teams -- Djurgarden center Mika Zibanejad, Central Scouting's No. 2-ranked European forward; and Farjestad defensemen Jonas Brodin (No. 3 on Central Scouting's list) and Oscar Klefbom (No. 6).
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Posted On Monday, 05.30.2011 / 2:49 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

NCAA help for Combine

There are 23 players at this year's Scouting Combine either playing NCAA hockey or considering going there. In years past, those players would be rushed through the Combine in 48 hours, taking all their interviews in one day, their fitness testing the next and then out the door.

NCAA rules allowed the NHL to bring the players to the Combine for no more than 48 hours -- any time longer would be considered an impermissible benefit and cost the player his eligibility. One of the more vivid images of recent Combines was in 2008, when Colin Wilson had to sprint through the Bristol Westin hotel in Toronto immediately after his fitness testing to get back to his room, change into clean clothes, grab his bag and hustle to the airport.

However, the NCAA gave the NHL a waiver just before last year's Combine, exempting the League from that 48-hour rule, and now NHL Central Scouting can plan for NCAA-eligible players to stay for the duration of the Combine.

"It allows us to spread the interviews over the course of the three days (of the interview sessions)," Central Scouting Manager Nathan Ogilvie-Harris, who coordinates scheduling for the Combine, told NHL.com. "The NCAA kids used to do close to 25 to 30 interviews over the two days. Their schedules were hectic. They would finish the fitness testing and we'd be pushing them out the door and scrambling to get them to the airport on time so they wouldn't miss their flights.

"It's made everything more flowing. It's fair to the kids and leads to a more balanced schedule."
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Posted On Sunday, 05.29.2011 / 9:08 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

Get prepared for the NHL Scouting Combine

As the preparation stages begin for the NHL Scouting Combine in Toronto, here's a look at some of the intriguing stories you may want to check out prior to NHL.com's wall-to-wall coverage of the six-day event at the Westin Bristol Place and the Toronto Congress Center.

* Just because Red Deer Rebels center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American skaters, it doesn't necessarily mean he'll have the highest average power output of any other player on the board upon completion of the anaerobic fitness exam. The proof will be in the pudding, as the old adage goes, when Nugent-Hopkins is among the top 102 draft-eligible players from North American and Europe to undergo rigorous testing and medical examinations at the NHL Scouting Combine from May 30 to June 4 in Toronto. Mike Morreale has the story.

* Red Deer Rebels center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the top North American for the 2011 Entry Draft as determined by NHL Central Scouting. The Canadian Hockey League agreed with that decision Saturday, naming him as junior hockey's top draft prospect. Nugent-Hopkins, who led the Western Hockey league with 75 assists and tied for third with 106 points, beat out Kitchener Rangers left wing Gabriel Landeskog and Drummondville Voltigeurs center Sean Couturier. Bill Hoppe has all the details.

* Northeastern University defenseman Jamieson Oleksiak, the tallest draft-eligible player on the board for the 2011 Entry Draft at 6-foot-7, 244-pounds, was making the most of his time in the Boston area prior to heading out to the NHL Scouting Combine in Toronto. Oleksiak informed NHL.com that in addition to taking extra classes, he's hard at work preparing for the rigorous fitness testing he'll undergo at the Toronto Congress Center beginning June 3. Mike Morreale tells us how.

* The Scouting Combine gives NHL clubs a chance to evaluate those future stars of the League less than a month before the 2011 Entry Draft. The top 102 players as rated by NHL Central Scouting in April, including North American and European skaters and goaltenders, have been invited to participate in various team interviews and medical and physical tests. Unlike previous seasons, the Combine fitness testing will be held at the Toronto Congress Center on June 3-4. To help prepare for this year's Combine, NHL.com's Mike Morreale highlighted the top players at each position last week looking to make an impression. Make sure you're up to speed. Left wings | Right wings | Defensemen | Centers | Goalies

* Get the most recent NHL.com mock draft results right here.

* All season long, top prospects Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of Red Deer (WHL), Scott Mayfield of Youngstown (USHL) and Seth Ambroz of Omaha (USHL) have maintained monthly blogs on NHL.com. Each player provided a little insight into their preparation for the Scouting Combine this month. You can check them out here: Nugent-Hopkins | Mayfield | Ambroz
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Posted On Friday, 05.27.2011 / 1:22 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Combing the NHL Combine

Live from Toronto! It's the NHL Scouting Combine

After the Memorial Cup final is staged at Hershey Centre in Mississauga on Sunday (May 29), it's off to Toronto for the start of the NHL Scouting Combine!

The first day of the Combine should be a relatively slow one while players are interviewed by NHL teams within the Bristol Westin Hotel near Pearson Airport. NHL.com will be here all week, with daily stories and video to be accessed off the site. This event is a great appetizer for the draft, which is just over a month away.

The NHL Scouting Combine, which gives NHL clubs a chance to evaluate those future stars of the League less than a month before the 2011 Entry Draft, will be held May 30 through June 4 in Toronto, Ont.
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