Dan Marr, the Director of NHL Central Scouting, said he anticipates having 120 players, 99 North American prospects and 21 from Europe, at the Combine, which will be held at HarborCenter and First Niagara Center.
"The Combine not only is moving to the new HarborCenter but it is also implementing a new format and testing as a result of a Combine review that was conducted with the 30 NHL clubs," Marr said. "The fitness testing will be moved into an arena offering an increased viewing area, better sight lines and live result monitors, allowing for the testing to be captured on video."
Edmonton Oilers head amateur scout Stu MacGregor, whose team has the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, said he looks forward to the Combine each year.
"It sounds like the Sabres and [owner] Terry Pegula have done an outstanding job putting this together," MacGregor said. "The development in and around First Niagara Center and the fitness facilities available to the players to perform the tests will be outstanding. It'll be great to see that whole thing come together. It's a very exciting time around Buffalo and I'm looking forward to this."
The Scouting Combine will give amateur scouts and general managers an 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 the majority of the fitness testing will take place June 6 at HarborCenter. No player can test until clearing the medical screening.
"All players must be medically cleared by the NHL Combine medical staff in order to participate in the physical testing," Marr said. "Any player that is not 100-percent able to perform an upper- or lower-body test [due to post season surgery, current injury or rehabilitation, or medical condition] will be classed as injury or medically exempt depending on the circumstances.
"Every year there are instances where players have declined the Combine invitation, been medically ruled unable to test or have declined to test, but those instances vary and are rare."
The new location of the Combine has allowed Central Scouting to introduce some new facets to the event.
"While many of the tests remain the same there are some new technologies being incorporated into the event, in particular at the jump station where the vertical jump and jump forces will be measured with a Kistler Force plate," Marr said. "The player interviews with NHL teams will be conducted in suites at First Niagara Center and some of the testing will be performed over the course of the week to allow for players to be at their best."
The Kistler Force plate is a research platform linked to a video camera that provides information about forces passing through foot joints and the foot in all three planes of space. The test will include six separate maximum effort vertical jumps separated by 10 seconds of rest. The three best jumps are recorded and averaged to get a final score and ranking.
The fitness portion also will include overhand pull-ups, single leg squats (each leg), and pro agility tests will replace pushups, the push-pull station and the seated medicine ball throw.
The renowned bike tests now will be held on separate days. The VO2 Max, which measures a player's endurance, will take place the day before on June 5. The Wingate Ergometer peak power output test, which measures the explosiveness of a skater, will be held 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."
The fitness test results not only provide information on current capacities but also insight into potential future improvement in specific fitness components.
"What the players have to keep in mind is that this will be their initial contact with many NHL teams so they have the chance to make that good initial impression," Marr said. "Some kids aren't that comfortable when they're in an interview environment so it's important they be prepared to talk about themselves, which is something they might not be used to doing. The Combine gives the NHL teams a chance to get to know the player away from the rink."
Among the top prospects that will be at the Combine are Erie Otters center Connor McDavid and Boston University center Jack Eichel, the two top North American skaters in Central Scotuing's ranking. Additional first-round candidates invited to the Combine are Boston College defenseman Noah Hanifin, Erie center Dylan Strome and Kingston Frontenacs left wing Lawson Crouse, who are Nos. 3-5 on Central Scouting's North American skater ranking. Also coming is Finnish right wing Mikko Rantanen of TPS, Central Scouting's No. 1-ranked European skater. There were nine goalies invited to the Combine, topped by the Barrie Colts' Mackenzie Blackwood, No. 1 on Central Scouting's North American goaltender list, and Ilya Samsonov of Magnitogorsk in Russia, No. 1 on the European goaltenders ranking.
"The Combine week is always an interesting event for Central Scouting that seems to go by very quickly," Marr said. "The goal is to present an event that allows NHL personnel to interact with the future stars of our game and assist the NHL clubs in their pursuit of gaining as much knowledge about the draft prospects as possible. Central Scouting looks forward to hosting the prospects during Combine week so that they can further showcase themselves."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL
COMBINE SIDEBAR - FITNESS TESTING SCHEDULE
The NHL Scouting Combine will include 12 fitness tests to be performed next week at HarborCenter in Buffalo.
The three tests to be completed by June 5 that are closed to the media include BodPod, which measures body mass, fat-free mass, fat mass and percent body fat; grip strength, which measures hand strength; and the VO2 max bike test, which measures a player's endurance.
The remaining nine tests to be held June 6 and open to the media include standing height, wingspan, standing long jump, jump station, pro agility test, bench press, pull-ups, Y-balance test station, Wingate Cycle Ergometer Test.