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NHL Draft

Executives rave about Buffalo's handling of Combine

City's setup improves efficiency for prospects, scouts, team staff

by Joe Yerdon / Correspondent

BUFFALO -- The 2016 NHL Scouting Combine returned to Buffalo for the second consecutive year, and the city's setup has changed the way the event is viewed around the League.

The combine's interview portion was held at First Niagara Center, and the neighboring HarborCenter housed the physical testing. With an adjoining hotel for players and staff, Buffalo has streamlined the process for those attending the event.

"Last year it was a successful event. This year with the full complex being available to us, it's a fantastic venue here for us," Director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr said. "The hospitality throughout the Sabres, First Niagara Center, the HarborCenter has been great for us. We are going to be sitting down and talking with them. We have to do a new financial deal. It is a two-year deal, so we are going to sit down and talk with them and see what their interest level is and then we'll go back to the National Hockey League and make their decision sooner rather than later as far as I hope."

The combine moved from Toronto to Buffalo in 2015. Some wondered how the Sabres' decision to spread the events between two buildings would work out, but the ease and convenience left team executives raving about it.

"I think, obviously, this year is even better than last year from the standpoint of whatever kinks there may or may not have been from moving from Toronto to here they seem to have all been worked out," Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said. "The Sabres organization has done a great job of making the facilities available to us. The National Hockey League has done a good job from the Central Scouting side of providing this. This is a good situation, I think it's good."

Buffalo will host the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24-25, and that along with hosting the combine, has put the city at the heart of all the action for prospects this year. Many team executives would like to see Buffalo continue hosting the combine, but if it doesn't, they would like to see a similar setup elsewhere.

"People far smarter, more important than I figure out how and where they put it; but I like the continuity of having it here," Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving said. "Having it in one place, to me, long-term is good. I think there are always benefits of moving it around and different markets and everything like that, but I'd be just as happy to come back and do what we're doing here on a long-term basis. If it does go somewhere and they're changing it, they've got a good model here to follow. If you're going to move it, you want to duplicate what they've done here."

After two years, it's possible the combine may return to Buffalo next year, but that hasn't been agreed upon yet. Whether it returns or not, the city has set the bar for how the event can run.

"The standard is set here," NHL Central Scouting's David Gregory said. "We don't have a permanent home for the combine necessarily, but you're not going to go back (to the old way). We've always tried to make it better in whatever environment we were in. In Toronto, we moved from hotels to conference center, etc., and the opportunity to use a facility like [HarborCenter], you really can't go back. Just the sightlines for this testing, having it in an arena bowl, just creates a lot better opportunity for a lot of the hockey people to see what's going on here. Interviews scheduled in the First Niagara Center allowed much more opportunity. No kids are late; they're not running up and down floors of a hotel. It just turned into a real meeting, a real event for us."

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