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Prospects brace for physical testing at combine

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

TORONTO, ON -- Want to make a draft eligible taking part in the NHL Scouting Combine cringe? Mention the Windgate.

The Wingate Cycle Ergometer, as it is more formally referred to as, is used to measure peak anaerobic power and anaerobic capacity. More practically applied, it’s designed to measure the explosiveness of a skater and how quickly he can get up ice.

“No one likes that one,” Calgary Hitmen defenceman Ben Thomas said. “They call it the puke test. It should be good.

“It’s as hard as advertised.”

Paired with the equally intimidating VO2 Max which measures the endurance of a player's muscles, lungs and heart, the Windgate is one of 11 fitness tests that will be conducted Saturday at the Toronto International Centre.

Make no mistake; players are well aware of what’s to come.

And Sam Bennett of the Kingston Frontenacs is ready.

“It’s going to be exciting,” said Bennett, Central Scouting’s top-ranked North American skater. “I’ve been preparing a little bit this week with my trainer for all the tests. I’ve heard the bike tests are pretty difficult. I’m excited to do the tests.”

The physical testing is the final component of the week-long combine and a prospect’s last chance to leave a lasting impression on the 30 National Hockey League clubs that will be watching with a close eye.

That includes Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving, who also cautioned to keep the event in scope.

“Again, a piece of the process,” Treliving said. “All these kids, for the most part, they’re 17 and 18 years old. Apart from the odd exception, they all have to grow and mature physically. This is not the finished product so for us, it’s just getting a look at the frame, seeing where they are physically, what work needs to be done and in what areas, but again, keeping it in the proper frame of mind that the game is played on the ice, it’s not played on the testing rooms.

“You take all that stuff into context. This tries to round out the picture as you’re profiling each guy. It’s educational but I always say you’ve got to be guarded when you come to these events.”

With a brave face, many of the eligibles sitting atop Central Scouting’s ranking are keen on seeing what’s in store for them.

At least they’re claiming to be.

“You know, I’m pretty excited about it,” said Leon Draisaitl of the Prince Albert Raiders. “It’s been a fun week. It’s an exciting time. You get to know a lot of people who are important. It’s a fun time. Tomorrow’s going to be tough. I know that. It all comes down to battling through it and go as hard as you can.”

Not as convincingly, Oshawa Generals standout Michael Dal Colle also threw his enthusiasm behind getting in some exercise.

“I look forward to it,” he said. “It only happens once. I’m going to make the most of it.”

The fitness testing will undoubtedly provide a wide range of results from the 17 and 18 year olds.

Some players are more physically developed while others have plenty of room remaining to fill out.

With the Memorial Cup concluding earlier in the week, some players have been playing right up to the combine. Others have seen their teams eliminated from competition as early as March.

In that, there might not be much to gain outside of bragging rights, claims Barrie Colts defenceman Aaron Ekblad.

“This is the beginning of the summer,” started Ekblad, projected as the draft’s top blueliner. “I just got off a long season. I don’t think anyone here is going to be blowing it completely out of the water considering a lot of guys just came off a long season. I’ve had about a month to train for this.

“I think I’m going to have some fun with it. It’s a fun time to compete with some of your friends.”

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