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McDavid, Eichel & others hold court at Combine

by Mitchell Clinton (@MClinton007) / Winnipeg Jets

BUFFALO, New York -- The NHL Combine is a busy week for management and scouting teams in the National Hockey League. Now imagine being the Director of Central Scouting, in a season that includes players like Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, both of whom have been described as ‘generational players.’

Dan Marr is the National Hockey League’s Director of Central Scouting, and was swarmed by reporters today at HarborCenter, but he was hesitant to use the generational term.

“I'm not quite comfortable with the term generational, myself. It's a fine line. I think if you try to project 10 years down the road, it's still going to be a fine line,” Marr said. “They both bring something a little different to the table, but they're both going to be big contributors in the National Hockey League. They're going to make a difference for their team, they're both going to
impact, going to put up numbers, and they're going to be special players.”

McDavid and Eichel have been attached at the hip for most of the season. They both play centre, but that may be where the easy comparisons end.

“You look at a lot of major sports, there are comparisons between athletes in every sport. The media is going to compare two players in the majority of sports, it just so happens we're being compared now,” said Eichel, who put up 67 points in 38 games with Boston University this season. “We're in different situations, playing in two different leagues, in two different countries.”

While Eichel was helping his team to their first NCAA conference title in six years, McDavid and the Erie Otters were eliminated in the Ontario Hockey League final by the eventual Memorial Cup champions, the Oshawa Generals. McDavid had 49 points in 20 postseason games, and 120 in 47 regular season games, on the way to being ranked at the top of Central Scouting’s list of North American skaters. But in his soft-spoken way, he won’t publicly say he’s the best player
available in the Draft.

“It's not up for me to decide,” he said. “I think a lot of people do a lot of talking. They'll judge for their own eyes. I believe in my abilities, and that's the main thing.”

Dylan Strome, ranked fourth on Central Scouting’s North American skater list, has seen that modesty from McDavid all season. As teammates in Erie, Strome said he also got used to seeing McDavid’s talent in practice. But he did play against him once.

“I had to play against him in the Top Prospects game and I got caught out there for a minute and a half shift. He was on the ice and I just did whatever possible to not let him score on me,” Strome said laughing. “I think he passed one right through my legs when I was in the slot looking at him in the corner… Some of the stuff he does is pretty ridiculous. He's going to be on Sportscentre a lot in
the coming years.”

Strome may also appear on sports highlight shows as well. He had 129 points in the 68 games he played with the Otters this season. During the process leading up to the draft, he looked to his brother Ryan, drafted fifth overall in 2011, for advice.

“Soak it all in. Obviously you only get to go through it once and you have to enjoy the moment when you're in it. Take it all back and have fun with it,” Strome said, recalling the advice of his brother. “It's crazy to think about. I've never really gone though this part of a draft like this. In the OHL, I had solidified a spot with Erie a couple weeks before the draft. This is all new for me and it's exciting, thinking about where you might end up. It's going to be a fun day and I'm looking forward to it.”

While Strome has more experience playing with McDavid, Central Scouting’s third ranked North American skater, Noah Hanifin, is more familiar with Eichel. Hanifin suited up for Boston College in the NCAA, and faced off with Eichel on numerous occasions. But Hanifin also saw a lot of
McDavid in the World Junior Hockey Championship.

“Both of them are very dangerous when they have the puck. I'd say Connor is a little more crafty in the corners,” Hanifin said. “He's very good on his edges and spinning in the corners, where as Jack
is a very powerful north-south guy, who will beat you with his speed if he needs to. Connor can too, but they're just different skaters.”

Hanifin’s analysis of the two skaters comes from his defensive mindset. The blue-liner recorded 23 points in 37 games with Boston College. He says the thought of playing against McDavid and
Eichel in the NHL motivates him.

“The type of role I want to be in the NHL some day is the type of defenceman that can play against forwards like that,” he said. “Both Connor and Jack are great players and the attention they've got this year, they deserve it.”

“I think Noah brings out the best in me. He's a good friend of mine. It's great competition playing against him. I really enjoy it,” Eichel said of Hanifin. “He's a great skater, which makes it tough for all forwards going against him. He's really smart. Just taking his time and space away. He's a great
puck mover.”

So while the focus continues to be on players like McDavid and Eichel leading into the NHL Draft June 26-27 in Sunrise, Florida, Central Scouting’s Marr believes it won’t only be the teams selecting McDavid and Eichel who will be happy.

“A lot of teams are going to get a player at their pick that they had a lot higher on their list. There's not that much separation between the players,” Marr said. “So one team may have the player 10th, the other team may have him at 20. So I think everybody on the first day of the Draft is going to
be happy with what they get.”

-- Mitchell Clinton,

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