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Scouting Combine gets underway in Buffalo

104 players being evaluated this week leading up to NHL Draft

by Mike G. Morreale @MikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

BUFFALO -- The NHL Scouting Combine began at KeyBank Center and HarborCenter on Monday.

There are 104 players here this week, including North American and international skaters and goaltenders. The combine will give all 31 NHL clubs a complete physical and medical assessment of these players before the 2017 NHL Draft, which will be held at United Center in Chicago on June 23-24. 

The invitees include 84 of the top North American prospects and 20 top international prospects. There are 58 forwards, 36 defensemen and 10 goaltenders.

Each NHL team will have the opportunity for 1-on-1 interviews with the prospects at KeyBank Center, Monday through Friday. The medical examinations of each player will take place by Thursday, and eight of the 12 fitness tests will take place Saturday at HarborCenter.

No player can test until clearing the medical screening.

Here are four intriguing takes from Day 1 of the combine on Monday:

1. First-round feedback

Brandon Center Nolan Patrick (6-foot-2, 198 pounds), No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters eligible for the draft, has 13 team interviews scheduled this week prior to testing on Saturday. Patrick missed 35 regular-season games because of an upper-body injury and four games in the Western Hockey League playoffs because of a lower-body injury. His medical screening will take place Wednesday.

"I do want to go through all the testing if I'm cleared to do so," he said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing and some of these tests I haven't done. I don't want to leave the combine knowing I wasn't able to do all the tests because you are only here once. Hopefully I get to go-ahead to go through it all."

On Monday, Patrick interviewed with the New Jersey Devils, who have the No. 1 pick in the draft. His interview with the Philadelphia Flyers, who have the No. 2 pick, will take place Tuesday.

2. Scout's honor

The Dallas Stars have the No. 3 pick in the draft after moving up from No. 8 in the NHL Draft Lottery on April 29. Director of amateur scouting Joe McDonnell said he likes the depth of this year's draft, though there might not be a talent on the level of Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews.

"I feel the draft is a little deeper from other years," McDonnell said. "I think the top 15 to 20 picks are interchangeable and it might be a case of the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The combine is a tool we'll use to our advantage, for sure. I like sizing the player up face-to-face, trying to figure out the player's character. But the latter is very difficult if not impossible. If we could figure that out in an 18-year-old player or person, life would be a little less complicated."

 3. Top underrated prospect

Tri-City center Morgan Geekie (6-2, 178) has used the disappointment of being passed over in the 2016 NHL Draft as motivation this season. He is No. 45 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters eligible for the draft. Geekie led Tri-City with 90 points (35 goals, 55 assists) and 14 power-play goals in 72 games WHL games this season. Geekie has 118 points (48 goals, 70 assists) in 148 games during four WHL seasons. He has good hands and vision and could turn out to be a solid matchup player, according to John Williams of NHL Central Scouting.

4. Question of the day

Boston University goaltender Jake Oettinger (6-4, 212), No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American goalies, was asked in a team interview what personality trait he felt he possessed that would prevent him from playing in the NHL. 

"I had to think about it and then told them I didn't think there was a personality trait of mine that would prevent me from playing," Oettinger said. "I think I have all the tools and the work ethic necessary to potentially be a No. 1 in the NHL one day."

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