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COMBING THE COMBINE

Annual event a chance for prospects to make an impression, teams to gather info

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

Off the ice, it's one of the busiest weeks on the NHL calendar.

All 31 teams and over 100 of the top draft-eligible prospects have descended on Buffalo, New York, for the annual Scouting Combine.

The event consists of club brass meeting with any number the top skaters and goaltenders from North America and Europe, before the gruelling fitness testing takes place at the home of the Sabres on Friday and Saturday of this week.

Seventy-seven of the top North-American prospects and 27 of the top international competitors, totalling 56 forwards, 38 defencemen and 10 goaltenders, comprise this year's invite list.

By now, members of the Flames - led by Head Amateur Scout Tod Button - have already met most of the prospects in a one-on-one setting as part of their viewings throughout the hockey season.

But the Combine is unique. It offers a chance for teams to loop back on players of interest, dig deeper into their season as a whole, and allow the prospects to get the know the organization a little better, too.

"It's a great opportunity for us to really focus on the players we have the most interest in leading up to the draft," Button said. "It's an information-gathering session, more than anything.

"A lot of people, including the prospects themselves, think of it as kind of a job interview, but we try to create a friendly, relaxed environment that the players can feel comfortable in. I, personally, don't see much value in trying to trip them up with strange questions and things like that.

"We've talked a lot of hockey already. It's best that we use this time to get to know them better as people - their hobbies, interests, family, and of course, what drives them."

 

 

While the interview portion takes place over the full week - Button, General Manager Brad Treliving and the Flames hosting nearly half of the 100-plus attendees - the fitness component will take centre stage on Friday and Saturday.

The event has become somewhat of a spectacle. What once took place in a cramped hotel ballroom is now held in a multi-faceted sporting complex, with hundreds of members of local and international media on hand to grill the prospects afterward.

All 31 teams will also have a strength and fitness coach on hand to get an up-close look and gather intel on players of interest.

For the Flames, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Ryan van Asten, along with Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Alan Selby, will be in attendance, taking notes over the two full days in Buffalo.

 

FRIDAY'S TESTS:

Y-Balance: A test performed in a single-leg stance with the goal of the athlete to maintain that stance while reaching as far as possible with the other leg. This test is used to demonstrate functional symmetry and requires strength, flexibility, core control
and "proprioception" - or a 'sense' of your body's mechanical ceiling.

Functional Movement Screen: Attempts to identify limitations, weaknesses, or right/left side imbalances in basic movements. The seven movements (deep squat, hurdle step, in-line lunge, shoulder mobility, active straight leg raise, trunk stability, push-up, and rotary stability) are graded using a 0-3 system.

Grip Strength: The test is conducted on both hands using a hand grip dynamometer.

Aerobic Fitness VO2 Max: Performed on a spin bike, a prospect's aerobic fitness is assessed by measuring the amount of oxygen used (VO2) during maximal exercise. Arguably the most gruelling test of them all.

 

 

SATURDAY'S TESTS:

MUSCULOSKELETAL FITNESS

Height

Wingspan

Standing Long Jump: The prospects get three tries to jump as far as they can from a standing position, using an 'arm-swing' to assist their movement. The measurement is recorded to the nearest centimetre.

AccuPower Dual Force Plate System: This test will be used to measure the direction, timing and strength of the force an athlete produces during a "hockey-related" movement. Prospects will conduct three jumps - a vertical jump (with arm swing), a no-arm jump (hands on hips), and a squat jump (squat start/hands on hips). The system will provide immediate feedback allowing teams to assess movement efficiency, physical performance and injury potential.

Bench Press: The athlete will lift 50% of his body weight using a barbell and free weights. Each athlete will perform three reps at maximum velocity, with a slight pause between each rep at the chest position. A "Gym Aware" device will be used to measure the velocity of the bar and the athlete's ability to produce power. The reported score will be measured in watts/kg.

Pro Agility Test: Evaluates a prospect's multi-directional speed using a series of 15, 30, and 15-foot shuttle runs, recorded using a laser timer.

Pull Ups: Records the maximum number of consecutive reps performed with the correct technique.

ANAEROBIC FITNESS

Wingate Cycle Ergometer Test (30 seconds): The athlete warms up by pedalling at a low resistance for two minutes, then quickly ramps up the cadence to reach his maximum output. The athlete then cycles at this capacity for 30 consecutive seconds, remaining in a seated position the entire time. Three values are recorded as a result of this test:

• Minimum Power Output (Watts plus Watts/kg)
• Peak Power Output (Watts plus Watts/kg)
• Mean Power Output (Watts plus Watts/kg)

Much like the VO2 Max, the Wingate is considered to be the most difficult test because it requires an athlete to go all-out and completely expend himself.

 

>>RELATED: SATURDAY'S TESTING SCHEDULE

 

Stay tuned throughout the week, as CalgaryFlames.com and Flames TV will have comprehensive, on-site coverage of the event, including written and video features with van Asten, Treliving, Button, and dozens of the prospects.

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