While it doesn’t have the wall-to-wall media and television coverage of it’s NFL sister, the NHL Scouting Combine, which is taking place this week in Toronto, has a lot of the same bells and whistles.
Invited to the camp were 101 of the best draft prospects in the world. They are undergoing a litany of tests from interviews with team personnel to off-ice strength and conditioning testing to on-ice work outs over the course of this week.
NHL team officials and some gathered media watch attentively looking for something… anything that would make a specific player stand out ahead of another.
|Nail Yakupov, now of the Edmonton Oilers, during one of several interview sessions at the 2012 NHL Scouting combine. |
Most teams send one of their strength and conditioning coaches to the combine to watch the prospects. The Flyers are no different, having deployed assistant strength and conditioning coach Ryan Podell as part of the Philly entourage in Toronto.
Podell’s job, while in Toronto is to focus on prospect body types and to try to determine their potential for future development.
Some teams even send their own sports pyschologists to meet with the prospects to during the interview portion of the combine to help recognize certain triggers in a prospects personality that could serve as a hurdle down the road from a development standpoint.
The combine has evolved over the years from just a place for potential first-rounders to be seen by teams to an all-out physical and psychological competition among elite teenage hockey players.
Most of the prospects now prepare for the combine. They show up in great physical condition. They are schooled on the questions they are likely to be asked and come in with well-prepared answers.
As such, there are fewer discernable differences in these categories between athletes. In other words, the more complex the combine has become, the harder it has become to separate the talent based on the testing.
So then why do the testing?
It allows for teams to have the most detailed information possible on players as they come into the league. It allows them to prepare unique workout regiments and dietary programs designed for a player’s specific needs. It also give them a full emotional and psychological profile of every player as they prepare to have them adjust to the rigors of professional hockey.
And it’s getting even more high tech.
This year, the NHL is introducing something called Functional Movement Screening (FMS).
The FMS test will be administered to 16 players for this year’s combine, almost as an exploratory study to see the benefits of it in the NHL.
The FMS, which is already used in the NFL combine, requires a series of tests in players’ joints that studies their specific patterns of movement.
It then uses a grading system to rank the players in each specific test and allows the strength and conditioning coaches to see if there is a deficiency or an imbalance in the way a player moves. It’s a way of assessing more specifically a player’s likelihood of getting injured in the future through wear and tear.
It also allows those coaches to establish an exercise program that can be corrective and help fix those imperfections.
|Sean Couturier, then of the Drummondville Voltgiers, works out on the first day of the 2011 NHL Combine event at the Toronto Congress Centre on June 3, 2011 in Toronto, Canada. The Flyers drafted him No. 8 overall. (Photo by Claus Andersen/NHLI via Getty Images) |
And, much like concussion tests do, it allows for a baseline to be set for a player from a functionality standpoint that can be used to measure where an injured player is in recovery after an injury does occur.
In closing, there are several uses for the NHL combine, but none more important than identifying health risks that may be unable to be seen or determined with the naked eye or by the athlete himself. This is a benefit to the players as well as the teams considering drafting them.
Ultimately though, these players have been scouted extensively by teams over the past few years, so the combine is one last look for NHL teams to see the prospects, get to know them in a one-on-one setting, ask questions that maybe other teams wouldn’t, and use these last bits of information in a final evaluation in preparation for next month’s draft.
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