by Matthew Iaboni
June 2, 2006
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(TORONTO) - Top draft prospects endured the dreaded fitness-testing phase of the 2006 NHL Combine Friday as the two-phase process wrapped up at a Toronto-area hotel.
After the 109 players met with the NHL teams for the interview stage Thursday, this day brought rigorous physical challenges that left them short of breath and anxiously waiting for the day to end.
|This test left the players short of breath |
"It was pretty cool at the beginning and then when the bikes came it was really hard," said forward Tony Lagerstrom a prospect from Sweden.
There were a couple of components to the fitness testing. Not only did the players have to perform certain exercises in front of NHL scouts and general managers they also underwent a full physical exam.
"They want to know if a player has any significant injuries that might impact on their career either short term or if they will be resolved soon," said Dr. Norm Gledhill, fitness testing and medical evaluation professor at York University.
This pre-draft process has been going on for 14 years and it gives a chance for the teams to see the players outside of the hockey arena.
"We provide the fitness, done objectively by people who have no vested interest in the teams," Dr. Gledhill said. "We provide it to all the teams so they can use that information. They put that all together and it helps them make decisions if that player is right for their organization."
Maple Leafs general manager John Ferguson was on hand and he agreed that the tests play a significant role in drafting a player.
"It is an important piece to the entire story," Ferguson said. "Certainly it's not all (the story), but physical preparedness demonstrates a commitment to your career, your future and at the same time guys that are a little underdeveloped, have more room to get better."
Players endured strenuous challenges including the anaerobic performance test on stationary bikes.
"That is one of the toughest ones," Dr. Gledhill said. "In the NHL players are skating for 30 seconds that's about it then you have to get them off the ice. What this does is make people work as hard as they can for 30 seconds and then we report back to them what their peak power output is, how hard they're working during that time and after 30 seconds what's their fatigue intake, how far have they dropped off."
This is a big weekend for not only the players, but also the teams as they meet with potential highly-rated draft picks before the NHL Entry Draft on June 24.
"The bulk of the scouting gets done from August to the end of the playoffs and there really isn't much to choose from on their play at the end, but now you get a chance meet with them, talk to them further, assess them in other ways," Ferguson said.
The interviews and physical testing done, now it will be a fun three weeks with plenty of speculation as to just exactly where these draft hopefuls will go when NHL teams get their chance to pick.