Once NHL Central Scouting finalized the rankings of the top 2015 NHL Draft-eligible prospects earlier this month, the focus shifted to the NHL Scouting Combine, to be held June 1-6 in Buffalo, N.Y.
Among those scheduled to take part in the Combine are Central Scouting's top two players in its final ranking of the top North American skaters, centers Connor McDavid of the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League and Jack Eichel of Boston University of Hockey East.
NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr confirmed that 120 players, among them some of the top North American and international skaters and goaltenders, will be invited to attend the Combine.
The Combine will give all 30 teams complete physical and medical assessments of hockey's future stars three weeks before the 2015 NHL Draft is held, June 26-27 at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.
The Combine will be held for the first time in Buffalo, at First Niagara Center and HarborCenter. Teams will have the opportunity for 1-on-1 interviews with the prospects at First Niagara Center from June 1-5. The medical examinations of each player will take place June 4, and a majority of the fitness testing will take place June 6 at HarborCenter. No player can test until clearing the medical screening.
"Central Scouting will select the first 70 to 75 players [invited] and then the NHL clubs and scouting directors will vote in the remaining players," Marr said. "Our goal is to have players at the Combine that the teams want to interview."
Marr said the 2015 Combine has been two years in the making.
"Two years ago, and after my first my first year [as director], we did a comprehensive Combine review with all 30 clubs participating and created a Combine committee that consisted of two NHL general managers, two assistant general managers, two scouting directors and myself," Marr said. "We worked closely with the NHL strength coaches by having them form their own Combine group because they are a big part of it. What came out of the review was to let the strength coaches develop the tests and protocols that were to be done at the Combine."
The Combine has been modified this year to create a more sports-specific event in an attempt to accommodate the advances made in prospect evaluation.
"The Combine has always had subtle changes here or there, so with this transition to Buffalo we're trying to incorporate a lot more changes," Marr said. "A lot of the changes are behind the scenes."
The Combine this year will provide electronic medical records for each prospect that teams will be able to access immediately after his medical screening is completed.
Also new this year is scheduling for the grueling stationary bike tests. The VO2 Max test, which measures endurance capacity, will be performed June 5. The Wingate Ergometer peak power output test, which measures skating explosiveness, will be done June 6.
"The strength coaches said both those tests required the players to fatigue, to go until they can no longer go," Marr said. "To have them do those tests almost back-to-back [on the same day] really wasn't a valid indicator to where a player was at."
Also adopted were changes to the jump test, at the recommendation of the team strength coaches.
"The one thing to remember about the Combine is that it's not a competition," Marr said. "This is what the fans and media need to understand. It's an assessment of the 17- and 18-year-olds at that point in their athletic development. It gives the strength coaches a basis of where they currently are in terms of their strength development and allows them to project how they could manufacture him into an NHL player if they plan on drafting him."