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Thomas ready to kickoff NHL Scouting Combine

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

I don’t know how nervous I am. I’m kind of excited to get over there and see all the other players and meet with the teams. It’s exciting and a little bit nervous.Ben Thomas

CALGARY, AB -- Ben Thomas has but one hurdle to clear as he prepares for the 2014 NHL Draft.

Well, it’s more like a bit of a bike.

Thomas will be one of three Calgary Hitmen and 118 draft eligibles set to descend on Toronto on Monday to participate in the NHL Scouting Combine, the final event on the schedule before the draft takes place from June 27-28 in Philadelphia.

But the nerves haven’t hit the prospect just yet.

“I don’t know how nervous I am,” said Thomas, who will be joined in Toronto by teammates Jake Virtanen and Travis Sanheim. “I’m kind of excited to get over there and see all the other players and meet with the teams. It’s exciting and a little bit nervous.

“I know a few guys that have been through it before. They’ve told me what goes on. I kind of have a little bit of an idea what to expect.”

And what to dread, too.

Thomas, training alongside fellow Western Hockey League eligibles Conner Bleackley, Reid Duke and Brycen Martin at Crash Conditioning in Calgary’s southeast, has been preparing for the Wingate Anaerobic Test, a cycling exercise used to measure peak anaerobic power and capacity.

It consists of a set time pedaling at maximum speed against a constant force.

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

“We went to a sports lab downtown and we did the Windgate and the VO2 test. It’s as hard as advertised, yep.”

Thomas hasn’t had a lot of opportunity to prepare for the Windgate or the other physical components of the combine.

His Hitmen qualified for the WHL playoffs and, after being eliminated in the first round by fellow 2014 NHL Draft eligible Sam Reinhart and the Kootenay Ice, he was invited to represent Canada at the 2014 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.

After helping Canada to bronze, the 17-year-old sprinted back into the gym.

“I had three full weeks here at Crash,” said Thomas, 86th among North American skaters in Central Scouting’s final ranking. “I think that was definitely enough time to prepare. We started pretty quick when I got back from Finland and got right into it. The workouts have been pretty hard.

“I feel good and I feel in really good shape.”

The fitness testing, though, is just half of the weeklong event.

And while he’s already ran through a battery of exercises designed to mimic the physical strain he’ll go through, the interview process will be a different beast for the 6-foot-1, 190-pound defenceman.

It’s one he feels prepared for after already meeting with NHL clubs throughout the course of the regular season.

“I’ve had a few interviews with some guys and met with a few people already, so I’m pretty comfortable just talking to the NHL guys,” he said. “I think I’m used to it. I won’t be too bad. I’m just going to try to stay calm, pretty much.

“It’s almost like a job interview. It’s one on seven or however many guys they’ll have in there. They ask you some questions that can be pretty tough but I’m just going to try to relax and just not worry too much about it and be myself.”

Still, Thomas knows the importance of a good showing with the 2014 NHL Draft just a month away.

He’s ready to put his best foot forward.

“I definitely think it helps if you do well,” he said. “If you can show that you’re a good guy and you can be a good asset to the team and that you care about your fitness and be in good shape, it helps. If you do bad in the fitness testing or teams don’t like you, it can definitely lower your draft status.

“I think it can affect it, for sure.”

How his showing at the combine does affect him, though, won’t be known until late June.

It’s a date that is rapidly approaching and will wrap up a draft journey that started back in September.

“It’s getting there,” Thomas said. “Its kind of coming in the back of my mind a little bit more now. After the combine is when I can relax and let things take care of themselves. The draft is definitely getting close here, for sure.”

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