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Combine provides insight

by Staff Writer / Boston Bruins
With the 2006 NHL Entry Draft coming up on June 24 at General Motors Place in Vancouver, B.C., has jumped into our yearly draft coverage. In this segment, we take a look at the Draft Combine.

By Jeremy Lemoine

BOSTON - On June 2nd and 3rd, the Boston Bruins amateur scouting staff attended the National Hockey League’s Draft Combine and took one step closer to determining their No. 5 overall selection at the June 24 Entry Draft in Vancouver.

The annual combine, which took place in Toronto, lasted for two days and tested more than 100 draft-eligible players from around the world. The grueling two days consisted of interviews, arm and upper body strength tests, aerobic and anaerobic tests, sit-ups, pushups, and bench presses for the prospects.

“(The Combine) is all off-ice tests and it’s a great opportunity to get 20 minutes to interview the players and learn more about them,” said interim general manager Jeff Gorton.

Gorton believes that while the Combine provides a good way to see how physically fit the prospects are and how each one reacts to a certain situation, the most important aspect is how good the player is on the ice.

“Ultimately, can he play or not? That is the main question,” he said. “The Combine isn’t necessarily for players to move up and down our list, but if half our room wants one player, and the other half of the room wants another player, the Combine can sometimes settle that difference.”

On hand with the Bruins scouting staff was strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides to offer his expertise on the physical aspect of each player.

“The scouts just ask me to compare players on different tests and how he looks,” said Whitesides. “Whether he can put on more size, what his athletic ability was as he went through the tests, what kind of personality he had, and how they carry themselves through the testing period. It’s an open-ended look at these players.

“The scouts are very knowledgeable on the strength and conditioning component of the whole thing though, so they come down periodically to look at players they want to look at anyway. They look at the ones they have been watching all year,” he continued. “These tests are another inside look at something else on a player.”

The anaerobic portion of the testing is a “Wingate Test” where the player bikes for 30-seconds as hard as he can go. This test, along with the other bike test (VO2 Max test – stages of resistance while measuring oxygen levels), is where some of the players found themselves with their head in a bucket.

“When a player vomits, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” said Whitesides. “It either means he is not in shape or it means he really pushed himself to the limit. If he’s out of shape, you watch his work ethic to see if he will work hard to get himself into shape.”

When it comes to the interviews, Gorton said the questions are as simple as whether the player has a summer job or not. The interview process is only so the scouts from various teams have an opportunity to get to know the players on a personal level.

“It’s really just general information,” he said. “We ask about family background and what their parents do. We also ask what they do in the summer, whether they work, or if their parents hand everything to them.

“Then, we have the player talk as much as he can about himself and tell us what type of player he is,” Gorton continued. “We’ll ask him to compare himself to a player in the league. Lastly, we ask them to evaluate some other players they have played against and see how honest they are. Anything to get them talking in that 20 minutes.”

A question that surfaced was if the hiring of new general manager Peter Chiarelli would interrupt any of the plans for the draft. Gorton has had conversation with Chiarelli and said the plan going forward is still the same.

“I think just from talking to Peter, he understands that our amateur scouting department has done a pretty good job at getting strong players. He has trust in our group to get the right guy.

“It’s a confidence builder when someone from the outside comes in and likes what he sees. Our staff is encouraged with that.”
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