BUFFALO -- Bowen Byram of Vancouver in the Western Hockey League is considered by many to be the best defenseman available in the 2019 NHL Draft, which will take place at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on June 21-22.
He could be the third-best player in the draft, after center Jack Hughes of USA Hockey's National Team Development Program Under-18 team and right wing Kaapo Kakko of HC TPS in Liiga (Finland). The Chicago Blackhawks have the No. 3 selection, following the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers, respectively.
The 6-foot, 193-pound left-handed shot had 11 team interviews this week at the NHL Scouting Combine and is scheduled to begin the first of seven fitness exams at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday at HarborCenter.
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"My interview with the Blackhawks was good and I met some really cool guys," Byram said. "(Blackhawks senior advisor of hockey operations) Scotty Bowman is definitely a historical guy and (Blackhawks general manager) Stan Bowman was also in the meeting."
Byram led all WHL defenseman with 26 goals in 71 regular-season games, and all players with 26 points (eight goals, 18 assists) in 22 WHL playoff games.
"I'm here at the combine to enjoy the experience and meet some new people I haven't had a chance to meet," Byram said. "In terms of interviews, I just wanted to be myself and show the character I have, the person I am. With the testing, I enjoy that stuff and like competing with the other guys so I'm sure it'll be a good time. Most guys here are in good shape, so it'll be good."
Byram is No. 2 among NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters.
"Byram played at an elite level to have the kind of season he had at his position," David Gregory of NHL Central Scouting said. "The kind of numbers and production he put up over the course of the season is very rare and in having him No. 2 in our final ranking, we're letting our NHL clubs know we see something special here."
Video: Bowen Byram is named No. 3 on Draft Prospects list
Forward Raphael Lavoie (6-4, 196), No. 20 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, had a surprise waiting for him when he entered his hotel room Tuesday, two days after Halifax lost 4-2 to Rouyn-Noranda in the Memorial Cup final on May 26.
That's when he learned that Rouyn-Noranda right wing Alex Beaucage (6-1, 193), No. 64 in Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, was his roommate for the week.
Lavoie ranked fourth on Halifax in scoring with 73 points (32 goals, 41 assists) in 62 regular-season games, and first in playoff scoring with 32 points (20 goals, 12 assists) in 23 games. He had three points (two goals, one assist) in four games for Halifax in the Memorial Cup.
"I got in Monday and Raphael got here Tuesday so when I came back from supper he was in the room and that's when we knew we were roommates," Beaucage said. "When I saw him I said, 'Hey, what's up?' We didn't talk much that first night but we're talking a lot more right now. We're going to lunch when the schedule works out.
"On the ice, we're not friends, but off the ice I feel we've built a relationship because we have the same main goal and that's to eventually play in the NHL."
Beaucage finished fourth on Rouyn-Noranda with 79 points (39 goals, 40 assists) in 68 regular-season games and seventh with 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 19 playoff games for the QMJHL champion. The right-handed shot had one goal, one assist in five Memorial Cup games.
The Wingate anaerobic bike test, which measures the explosiveness of a skater and is the most anticipated test administered on Saturday, will revert to the standard 30-second sprint.
A 45-second protocol was introduced last year that had each player perform three separate 15-second sprints on the stationary bike.
"The strength and conditioning coaches did not feel there was any benefit from a 45-second protocol," Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting said.
Additionally, the pro agility test will no longer calculate a player's miles-per hour, introduced last year, but just his final time. In the end, learning the MPH of a hockey player performing a shuttle run in sneakers wasn't considered a necessary measurement.
Top underrated prospect
Robert Mastrosimone, No. 53 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, focused on minor details to become a major threat for Chicago of the United States Hockey League this season.
The 5-foot-10, 158-pound left wing, who had 16 goals in 60 games as a USHL rookie in 2017-18, had 60 points (31 goals, 29 assists), 20 power-play points (seven goals, 13 assists) and two shorthanded goals in 54 regular-season games this season. He led Chicago with 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 11 USHL playoff games.
"I think this year I became more of a shooter," said Mastrosimone, who will play at Boston University in the fall. "I worked on my release in the summer, getting it off in tight areas. I also had guys I could play with who knew how to dish the puck. Nicholas Abruzzese (51 assists, No. 122 in Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters) made my game easy; he gave me tap-ins on some of my goals."
Question of the day
Left wing Brayden Tracey (6-0, 177), named the WHL Eastern Conference rookie of the year after scoring 81 points (36 goals, 45 assists) in 66 regular-season games, had an immediate response to a question he was asked since it happened to him this season with Moose Jaw of the Western Hockey League.
"If I was picking up my teammate for a curfew and he wasn't there, would I wait for him and take the blame or leave him if he's late?" Tracey said. "This happened to me twice and with the same guy on our team this season. The first time I waited and stuck it out and took the blame, but the coaches told me not to do that again. So, the first time I stuck with him. The second time I just left."
Tracey made one of the biggest jumps in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters at No. 21 after being No. 73 at the midterm.
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