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A Look at the NHL Scouting Combine

by Renee Anderson / Boston Bruins – Prior to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, 105 top prospects will participate in the NHL Scouting Combine. The players will undergo a series of medical and fitness tests to measure their preparedness for the physical demands of the league.

Tyler Seguin at 2011 NHL Combine

The medical tests begin with a basic eye exam. Then a physician reviews the player’s history of concussions, examines the stability of his joints, and listens to his heart and lungs.

From here the players move on to the fitness testing. The first test measures their standing and reach heights. Dr. Norm Gledhill of York University, who administered the Combine's tests in 2011, said players with longer wingspans have an edge on the ice.

“If you think of [Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno] Chara with the wingspan he’s got – he’s leaning forward and has that big reach,” Gledhill told “You add a hockey stick to the end of that, and you’ve got a really big poke-checking advantage.”

Next, the players perform in a number of strength tests to measure handgrip and upper body power. The physicians use a push-and-pull device to simulate contact against the boards, and then use a specific formula to calculate these statistics for each player.

“We look at it both in absolute terms and per pound of body weight,” Gledhill said. “Sometimes you can get a small guy whose number doesn’t look that impressive on its own, but when you divide it by his body weight it’s pretty incredible.”

The tests continue with flexibility and agility exercises. These include stretching, jumping and balancing, and Gledhill said flexible players are typically less susceptible to injuries.

Lastly, the athletes undergo anaerobic tests on the stationary bicycles – the first of which is a 30-second sprint.

“Thirty seconds is actually about the average shift length in hockey,” Gledhill said. “What this tells us is what they’ve got left at the end of 30 seconds.”

The other anaerobic bicycle test is a full game. This measures how players recover between periods, and how they perform over time.

The final element of the Combine is a psychological test. Players answer a questionnaire upon arrival, and again after the medical and fitness tests are completed.

“The question is – can you make good decisions when you’re tired?” Gledhill said. “We can find out when a person has been out on the ice for a long time whether or not they start making bad decisions.”

This year’s Combine will be held May 28 – June 2 in Toronto.

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