BUFFALO, New York --
The weather in Buffalo, NY during this week’s NHL Scouting Combine has been nothing but sunny skies. But Winnipeg Jets General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and Director of Amateur Scouting Marcel Comeau haven’t seen much of it.
Instead, they’ve been inside First Niagara Center, interviewing prospect after prospect, gathering as much information as possible leading into the NHL Draft in three weeks time.
“We're on the last day of actual interviews with the players. I think we've got 10 more to go this afternoon. Full days of 20 players each day,” said Cheveldayoff on Friday morning.
“It becomes a grind for the scouts. The set up here is very good. It is different than it was in Toronto. I think the testing facilities will show that as well. I think it will be a good experience for both the teams and all the players involved.”
This is the first year since 1999 that the NHL Combine is being held somewhere other than Toronto. Comeau said the organizers haven’t missed a beat, and things have been moving smoothly
heading into fitness testing this weekend.
“Central Scouting does a real nice job of making sure things are organized. That's no exception this year with the change of venue,” Comeau said, adding that although the prospect interviews can be a grind, it’s part of the process. “Our staff comes here prepared to put the time in. I think if you want the results, you need to put in the time, and we've done that. We'll meet again on Saturday here and review what's happened as far as the Combine is concerned, work a little bit on our list, and
get ourselves ready to go.”
A total of 117 prospects will go through 12 different fitness tests during the Combine. Just like the change in venue, the format of those fitness tests also changed this year. The infamous bike tests will be on separate days (with VO2 Max taking place Friday, the Wingate Ergometer peak power output test on Saturday), and agility tests will replace pushups, seated medicine ball throw,
and push-pull station.
These tests bring a wealth of information to the Winnipeg Jets’ scouting staff. Cheveldayoff says the team will have a man on the floor who can dissect all of it.
“We have our strength and conditioning coordinator, Craig Slaunwhite, here. So he'll watch all the athletes going through the tests,” Cheveldayoff said. “It gives everyone a base point of where everyone is at from a conditioning standpoint. It's a little unfair for some players who have just finished playing a Memorial Cup or went deep into the playoffs, some of the players haven't had a chance to get into their summer fitness programs. In any regard, it gives you an opportunity to see where they're at, but more so maybe where they have capacity to grow and what areas that
you need to work on with them, if you're successful at drafting them.”
All of that information will be key with the Jets holding the 17th and 25th picks in the first round of the NHL Draft. Cheveldayoff says despite holding two picks in the opening round, the work and preparation remains the same. The only thing that might change, is the mindset in the
“When you're talking to different players in the Draft Combine, that are potential first rounders in your own mind, you know you might have a chance at one of them,” he said. “But when you get the
opportunity to have two picks like ours, if we do draft them, you're sitting there interviewing these same kids thinking, we might get two of you. So that's a little bit of a different feel.”
But despite that different feel, one thing remains the same: anything can happen on the draft floor. At this moment, Comeau looks at the two first-round picks as a challenge for the scouting staff.
“We're picking 17th. We've never been that low since we've been in Winnipeg here, and we have another pick at 25, and we've never had a pick in that range. We're fishing in a little bit of a different pool of players here,” he said. “Certainly it gives you an idea that you really have to be
prepared, and we will be.”
Regardless of where the Winnipeg Jets make their selections in this year’s draft, Comeau likes the look of the talent pool.
“I think there certainly is good depth. There are drop off points as there are every year. We think there will be some good picks mid to late here,” he said. “We're looking forward to the opportunity to bring some of those players home.”
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com