TORONTO -- Defenseman Jacob Middleton of the Ottawa 67's of the Ontario Hockey League has nothing to lose and everything to gain as a participant at the 2014 NHL Scouting Combine.
Middleton is No. 172 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia next month. Despite being the lowest-rated player of the 119 prospects invited to the Combine this week, his spirits are at an all-time high.
"Knowing where I stand in the rankings, this gives me an opportunity to talk to teams and have them get to know me, because from the sounds of it a couple teams wanted to meet with me, which is an honor," Middleton told NHL.com. "To get this opportunity is exciting and I'm going to make the most of it."
Middleton, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound left-hand shot, had two goals, 23 points and 64 penalty minutes in 65 games for Ottawa this season. It was his second year in the OHL.
"I'm a physical defenseman and pretty aggressive," he said. "I like to play that defensive-defenseman role. I had a shot on the power play in Ottawa as well because we were a younger team so I was able to showcase some skills up there. As a pro, I think I'll be a defensive-defenseman though."
Middleton, who has 11 interviews scheduled with NHL teams, will have his fitness testing beginning Saturday afternoon at the Toronto International Centre. He says he's ready.
"I've been preparing for it now for a month so I'm right up there physically," he said. "I'm looking forward to showcase myself. The interviewing part is just me being myself and being modest."
What does Middleton feel it takes to becoming an NHL defenseman?
"You have to be the strongest guy on the ice, physically and mentally," Middleton said. "When you have guys like Sidney Crosby bearing down on you, you must be mentally prepared for what's to come. You also have to be physically prepared to take on someone of his ability."