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How Important Are NHL Combine Fitness Tests?

How will the results of Saturday's NHL Combine activities influence the Golden Knights' Entry Draft decisions

by Dan Marrazza @GoldenKnights / VegasGoldenKnights.com

It's kind of a strange looking scene.

On the final day at the NHL Combine, the focus shifts to fitness testing. Where most of the combine's first five days have been set aside for teams to interview prospects, pretty much all of the fitness tests take place the last day, with more than 80 prospects participating in a handful of exercises.

But how important are these test scores?

RELATED: Rundown of all exercises included in NHL Combine fitness testing

Can how many pull ups an 18-year-old does on a single morning predict how his entire NHL career will turn out?

And within a span of years in which scouts build a database of viewings, interviews and references, can a player's long jump on a single Saturday morning influence his draft status?

Basically, how important is the NHL Combine for teams deciding what players to take in the NHL Entry Draft?

VegasGoldenKnights.com investigated by discussing this with strength and conditioning coach Doug Davidson and director of player personnel Bob Lowes.

In short, the Golden Knights staff said that the fitness tests are important.

It's just not necessarily a player's scores that they're looking for.

Tweet from @GoldenKnights: Early here in Buffalo (and pretty late back in Vegas��) as Jay Mellette sets the stage for today's #NHLCombine fitness tests. #BoldInGold pic.twitter.com/MaHGyjK8Bq

 

"I don't think we're looking for the results as much as the effort," Lowes said. "Also the body types. Different guys, we look to see if they can overcome what we maybe see as some deficiencies.

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"Let's say maybe a guy isn't as good of a skater as we'd like. How much stronger can he get, to help improve his skating? Those are things we look for."

Lowes was quick, however, to mention that the team's hockey operations staff defers to strength and conditioning coaches on a variety of subjects.

 

Tweet from @GoldenKnights: What We Learned This Morning: Even if you're a top prospect like Nico Hischier, being yelled at by #bikeguy helps you perform at #NHLcombine pic.twitter.com/EbYyUagNUs

 

Because while the exercises associated with the NHL Combine are the bread and butter of conditioning coaches' professions, it's not necessarily the specialty of scouts or general managers.

The "hockey" guys are often better at deciphering a player's demeanor, confidence level and overall acumen from the fitness tests.

The strength and conditioning coaches, however, are able to dissect the workouts.

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"Within the tests, it's not one test we look at," Davidson said. "It's about painting a broader picture based on different categories. It gives you a general idea of where they're at.

"Even within those tests, even if they were perfect, you're still only getting a one-time snapshot. Maybe the kid was nervous? Maybe he has an injury he's hiding because he doesn't want to hurt his draft status. There are a lot of factors. Anytime you're taking a one-off test, it's tough to get a true read on where someone's at.

 

Tweet from @GoldenKnights: "Show me a winner now."That's not your Saturday morning wakeup call. It's just the beginning of today's fitness tests as the #NHLCombine. pic.twitter.com/nnjuthsjdP

 

"Generally speaking, I do like looking at some of the lower-body tests. Broad jump, the Wingate (bike test). To get a general idea of what their explosiveness is."

Although trying to determine a player's potential for explosiveness is a trait that's general sought after in prospects of all positions and sizes, both Davidson and Lowes said that they'll key in on different tests performances for certain players.

This may be based on what position the prospect plays. But it's also is follow-up work within a broader database.

RELATED: Golden Knights strength and conditioning coach shaped by NHL vet Gary Roberts

That as teams have accumulated a database with hundreds of hockey and non hockey-related data points on each player for several years, certain questions are left unanswered.

Teams may use combine performances as an attempt to check boxes that have previously been left unaddressed.

Which although different teams will have varying approaches to the NHL Combine, seems to be the overall value associated with the event.

"We've got to narrow it (draft list) down to certain players," Lowes said. "Maybe we're looking at something with our lists and we need to adjust it? Then we hot spot those (areas) and then we have to access that information to help us make our decisions." 

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