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Fitness Factor

by Mitchell Clinton (@MClinton007) / Winnipeg Jets

BUFFALO, New York -- National Hockey League teams gather a pile of information during the Combine. The Winnipeg Jets are no exception, and the man charged with turning fitness data into useful information for the team’s scouting staff is Dr. Craig Slaunwhite.

Slaunwhite holds a Doctorate of Chiropractic from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College and earned a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from Dalhousie University in 2003. An accomplished athlete in his own right (he earned a bronze medal in decathlon at the 2008 Canadian Olympic Trials, among other accomplishments), he is no stranger to the Combine. He served as the Florida Panthers Strength and Conditioning Coach before being named Winnipeg’s Director of Fitness prior to last season. Slaunwhite says a pre-Combine meeting with managements helps him understand who
to focus on.

“They give me a list of players that they've identified as potential interests for them, and key areas within each player,” Slaunwhite said. “So if they have concerns or questions about that player's physical abilities, they convey that to me, then I decipher through the different tests here
at the combine whether that is a problem or potentially an upside.”

Speaking of upside, a big advantage to the Combine for those in Slaunwhite’s position is seeing the athletes away from the rink.

“Most of these athletes have had a lot of attention paid to them by our scouting staff. They see their on ice performances, so a situation like this is an opportunity for us to see them off the ice,” he said. “See how their body is made up, see how they move, and see how they generate force. It gives us
an insight into their general athletic ability and not so much just their hockey specific abilities.”

But with the prospects going through 12 different tests while in Buffalo, Slaunwhite says he makes note of specific scores.

“Me personally, I put a little more value into the speed and explosive type of tests because I think that's the way our sport is going, and that's the kind of athlete I like to see,” he said. “If you have those fundamentally explosive abilities then it's easier to refine skill and things like that
afterwards.”

That’s important to keep in mind. These draft-eligible players will continue to grow in height, and gain muscle. Slaunwhite believes part of the job is projecting just how much each prospect will mature physically.

“Quite often you're looking at a situation where management and scouts are wanting to know if they have an ability to develop into a bigger, stronger player,” said Slaunwhite. “It's my job to decipher whether that's going to be the case or not.”

Slaunwhite likes the changes the event has gone through this season. He applauded Buffalo’s HarborCenter facility, as well as the change of scheduling that allowed for the VO2 Max and
Wingate bike tests to be on different days.

“The strength coaches as a group have had some input recently, and now we're starting to see some of that come into play here,” said Slaunwhite. “It's still maybe not where it needs to be, it could still use a couple more improvements, but I'm happy to see it moving in the right direction.”

-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com

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