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Ryan van Asten will be keeping close tabs on draft prospects as they go through grueling fitness tests at the Combine

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick /

Knowledge is power.

And, in the case of the NHL Scouting Combine, power is power.

Unteachable, even.

For two-time Cup champ and Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Ryan van Asten, that's the critical takeaway from this weekend's annual prospect showcase.

Who, among the dozens of potential first-round suitors (and beyond) has the natural makeup of the modern, impact athlete.

"There are a few specific tests that I like to focus on," said van Asten, now on the heels of his fifth year with the Flames after three with the L.A. Kings. "The power tests, for sure.

"They do vertical jumps on bi-lateral force plates, they do horizontal jumps - like a long jump - there's an agility test, and a Wingate test, or 30 seconds, all-out power.

"The reason we focus on those tests, in particular, is that that type of power, the physical quality of power and explosiveness, is the hardest to train and might have the biggest genetic component. Whereas something like the bench press or even pull-ups are quite easily trainable."


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van Asten, along with Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Alan Selby, are the two gurus on site in Buffalo, New York, this week to watch over grueling fitness tests 103 of the world's top prospects will be put through.

So, while General Manager Brad Treliving, Head Amateur Scout Tod Button and others will handle the interview duties leading up, van Asten will supply critical info afterward to supplement their already exhaustive book on each of the prospects ahead of next month's NHL Draft.

"We're basically lined up in front of all the tests, we can see everything that's going on," van Asten said. "It's in a line, all in order - so if we have a particular guy we're watching, we can just watch him all the way down the line.

"We don't anticipate in making hard decisions on guys because of their performance in these tests, but - like everything we do - it helps guide our decision-making process because we have better information to work off of."

van Asten goes into the weekend with a "clean slate," knowing little about the prospects outside of the big names like projected first pick Jack Hughes of the U.S. National Development Program. This allows him to focus only on the athlete's performance, and the visual cues you can only derive in person, like what can kind of body type he has, or how quickly he recovers from test to test.

These days, with the margin so thin, that can make all the difference.

"If you have two guys of equal talent, but there's one guy wno clearly demonstrates that he's superior in different performance qualities, or has a higher ceiling that way ... that will certainly go a long way in determing his value to an organization," van Asten said.

Stay tuned, as tomorrow we'll unveil our full conversation with van Asten in Episode 6 of Firestarter Podcast, brought to you by The Star Calgary, to kick off our 2019 NHL Scouting Combine coverage.

van Asten drills deep into the benefits of the event, how it's evolved over the years, what he'll be up to over the course of the summer as he tracks of the progress of the current Flames roster, and much, much more!

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