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Technology at the forefront as Flames' strength and conditioning coaches pore over Combine

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick /

BUFFALO - Like the very prospects at work, the NHL Scouting Combine is evolving at a break-neck pace.

Physically, yes - the event is longer held in a cramped and carpeted hotel ballroom.

So, there's that.

Instead, Buffalo's KeyBank and Harbor Centers took the reins years ago, transforming the annual event into somewhat of a tech-savvy spectacle.

More than ever - and with ground-breaking player- and puck-tracking systems soon on the way in game action - precision testing methods are vital in player and prospect evaluation.


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"It's evolved hugely over the last five years or so," said Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach, Alan Selby, who rode shotgun with boss Ryan van Asten at the NHL Scouting Combine this week.

"The Catapult, which we use to track players on the ice during Flames practice, the Force Plate here, and so on - it allows us to get a better picture of what's going on with the athlete on a day-to-day basis."

Catapult? Force Plate?

Turns out, they're just two of the most recent advancements that both gauge player performance and provide real-time feedback (as is the case during an NHL practice), but also deliver valuable insight about movement efficiency, peak power and injury potential.

The Catapult, for example, is a wearable GPS device that relays information directly to a laptop monitored by Selby and van Asten during an on-ice workout. The Force Plate, meanwhile, is just that - a 'plate' the athlete stands on and jumps off to record the force, timing and direction of his jump using three different, hockey-related poses.

Then there's the Wingate - another Combine-specific activity that measures peak power through a 30-second, all-out cycle burst.

A personal van Asten favourite.


Video: Strength and conditioning coach breaks down Combine


All are very different systems, but are also the best examples of how technology has impacted both the Combine and the very foundation of strength and conditioning on a team level.

"It's also a lot more work," said Selby, "so teams are creating more roles to support that, and use that technology to their advantage instead of falling behind the curve."

Selby, himself, is proof of that.

He spent two years honing his craft with the Flames' AHL affiliate, the Stockton Heat, fine-tuning many of the players currently on the NHL roster.

Thanks to an invitation by van Asten, Selby attended his first Combine back in 2017, and was one of - if not the - only AHL strength coaches to participate.

"Then, my second year, a bunch of other strength coaches followed suit and brought their AHL guy," Selby laughed.


"You can't afford to fall behind, so the extra set of eyes - I think was beneficial for both me in my development in this field, and for the Flames in wanting to keep a closer eye on the guys on their list.

"As a young guy coming up in the league, I really appreciated that opportunity. ... I think it helped prepare me for the [Flames] role as well."



Hired on with the big club almost a year ago to the day, Selby has more than a decade of experience in this capacity, personal training and lab tech roles, including four seasons with the Hamilton Bulldogs prior to the Stockton move.

While postcode may have changed, and the science behind the passion certainly has over the years, too, it is - at its core - a people-first business, and the Flames are lucky to have two of the best.

"My role's pretty different now," Selby said. "Crazy how it's changed over the years.

"Down in Stockton, for example, I was the only strength coach. Now, I'm obviously working under Ryan and we also have interns that help us out as well - so we're able to accomplish a lot more.

"I also had to wear more hats down there, help out in the kitchen and stuff like that.

"But up here, and being able to work alongside Ryan, we're able to do some pretty cool things with the technology we have available to us."

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