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NHL Combine

NHL Scouting Combine: What we learned

Foote recovered from wrist injury; Bjornfot handles pressure

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

BUFFALO -- Raphael Lavoie had quite the week at the 2019 NHL Scouting Combine.

In addition to interviewing with 25 NHL teams and completing all the fitness tests, the center for Halifax in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, No. 20 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, was surprised to learn that his roommate for the week would be Rouyn-Noranda right wing Alex Beaucage (6-foot-1, 193 pounds), No. 64 in Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters.

Rouyn-Noranda not only defeated Halifax in six games in the QMJHL championship round, but also 4-2 in the Memorial Cup final on May 26.

"It was definitely interesting when I walked into my hotel room," Lavoie (6-4, 196) said. "He wasn't there but I saw a paper with his name on it. I found it ironic that they put me with a guy whose team beat us in two finals. In the end, though, it was great. He's a really good guy and we get along really well."

After 103 prospects were interviewed, measured and profiled by the media, here are 10 things we learned: 

 

Missing Kakko

Kaapo Kakko, No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of International skaters, did not attend the combine this week and instead decided to stay home in Finland to celebrate after helping his country win the gold medal at the 2019 IIHF World Championship.

Kakko was the youngest player on Finland's roster and had seven points (six goals, one assist) and 40 shots on goal in 10 games at the tournament. Finland won 3-1 against Canada in the championship game May 26 in Slovakia.

Jussi Ahokas, who has coached Kakko in several international camps and tournaments, understood the decision. Ahokas, here to assist the Chicago Blackhawks with Finnish translation, believes Kakko will become a dominant NHL player.

"His level of game with how he can play in the corners against NHL guys at the World Championship was really impressive," Ahokas said. "You never know in five years who's going to be better, Kakko or Jack Hughes, but I think both are going to be impact players in the NHL."

Video: Kaapo Kakko lands at No. 2 on Draft Prospects list

 

Knight stumped during interview

Spencer Knight, No. 1 in Central Scouting's final ranking of North American goalies, was asked a question during an interview with an NHL team that days later still has him scratching his head.

"One question that had me wondering, and I'm still thinking about it, 'Do you like to stop pucks or prevent goals?'" said the goalie of USA Hockey's National Team Development Program Under-18 team. "I like stopping pucks, but I think the whole point of goaltending is preventing goals. I'm still going back and forth on that one. I'm still thinking about that one."

Knight (6-3, 192) went 32-4-1 with a 2.36 goals-against average, .913 save percentage and two shutouts in 39 games.

Video: Top goalie Spencer Knight on his development

 

Hughes unable to test 

Jack Hughes, No. 1 in Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, did not participate in the fitness testing at the 2019 NHL Scouting Combine on Saturday after his mandatory medical exam three days earlier revealed he was less than 100 percent.

Hughes played seven games for the United States at the 2019 IIHF World Under-18 Championship in Sweden (April 18-28) and seven games for his country at the 2019 IIHF World Championship (May 10-26). The U.S. was eliminated in the quarterfinal round of the World Championship on May 23 and Hughes arrived in Buffalo four days later.

"I think I knew coming into the combine I wasn't going to do the testing because I really haven't trained for it, playing hockey the past two months," Hughes said. "I really haven't had a break (after playing in the IIHF World Under-18 Championship and IIHF World Championship). It just didn't make sense to do the testing. My body needed a bit of a break."

Video: Hughes on catching up with peers at Scouting Combine

 

Foote played with one hand

Nolan Foote of Kelowna of the Western Hockey League said he played the entire season with a broken left wrist that he sustained the first week in the season. Doctors had told Foote, a left-handed shot, that the wrist was sprained and X-rays weren't necessary.

"It was really painful but I didn't know it was broken," he said. "Felt OK. It wasn't too bad honestly. I taped my hand up a bit [before games]. Just did lots of [therapy] for it, ice, tons of treatment for it. That's it."

When the pain persisted after the season, he finally had X-rays, which revealed the fracture had healed on its own.

"When I got the X-rays and they figured out it was broken, I went back and looked at how I did in those games and I ended up doing pretty good," he said. "Obviously I could have done better. It was pretty irritated throughout the season." 

Foote, the son of former NHL defenseman Adam Foote, had 63 points (36 goals, 27 assists) in 66 games. He's No. 37 in Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters.

 

Devilish plans

Dan MacKinnon, New Jersey Devils senior director of player personnel, is excited his team will have 10 picks in the 2019 draft, including the No. 1 selection. He also didn't reject the possibility of obtaining a second pick in the first round.

"You always look at those scenarios; that's part of the preparation and due diligence you have to do and sort of knowing not just who you would like to acquire but which teams are in that area and if there would be a potential marriage," MacKinnon said. "That said, it's very difficult to move up significantly into the first round, rather than just a few spots. It's a tough thing to do, but not impossible."

 

Bjornfot first player through

Tobias Bjornfot, a defenseman with Djurgarden in Sweden's junior league, was the first player to complete the fitness testing circuit.

"It was a fun experience," Bjornfot said. "You watch a lot of the combine, know it's a fun experience. It's nice to be here."

He said seeing the bleachers full of NHL general managers and scouts, and all the media, didn't bother him.

"It's fun to have the eyes on you," he said.

The left-shot defenseman made his debut in the Swedish Hockey League, playing seven games for Djurgarden. He also had 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) in 39 games in Sweden's junior league. He's No. 7 in Central Scouting's final ranking of International skaters.

Video: Byram on high compete level at Scouting Combine

 

Country Krebs

Peyton Krebs, No. 10 in Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, is the second of three hockey-playing brothers but his sister, Maddison Krebs, is a singer/songwriter.

"She's written no hockey songs yet, but I have a pregame ritual and listen to a couple of her songs," Peyton Krebs said. "I'm really proud of her."

Krebs' eldest brother, 20-year-old Dakota, is a defenseman for Calgary of the Western Hockey League and 17-year-old Dru was selected in the second round (No. 38) of the 2018 WHL draft by Medicine Hat.

Peyton Krebs, 18, had 68 points (19 goals, 49 assists) in 64 games for Kootenay of the WHL and had 10 points (six goals, four assists) in seven games while serving as captain for Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.

 

Small changes

Blackhawks amateur scout Mike Doneghy said Blackhawks forward Alex DeBrincat had "paved the way for smaller guys" to possibly be chosen in the early stages of the first round.

Cole Caufield (5-7, 162) of the NTDP U-18 team scored 72 goals this season. He's considered by many to be the best natural goal-scorer of the 2019 draft, but will his stature keep him from being selected early?

DeBrincat (5-7, 165), chosen in the second round (No. 39) of the 2016 NHL Draft, has 128 points (69 goals, 59 assists) in 164 NHL games. 

"You have to have a special skill set at that size which DeBrincat has and that Caufield appears to have, as well," Doneghy said. "DeBrincat did it in the Ontario Hockey League for three straight years and NHL for two. Caufield has shown it and now needs to prove it. I think if DeBrincat didn't have the success he's had than the comparisons for Caufield would be, 'Well, he could score, but he's another 5-foot-7 guy' and that's just not the case anymore."

Video: Cozens discusses height, pull-ups at Scouting Combine

 

Professional feedback

Defenseman Cade Webber, No. 87 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, has already learned from some of the best.

Webber (6-6, 194), who played at Rivers Academy in Massachusetts, was coached by former NHL players Shawn McEachern in high school the past three seasons, and Mark Recchi with the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite bantam minor AAA team in 2013-14.

"[Recchi] taught us how to be professional and pay attention to the little details out there," Webber said. "He kind of brought things he learned from the NHL and it was good at a young age to hear about those things.

"McEachern was a big influence because he'd bring me into his office, sit me down and we'd go over film. He just taught me little details on how I could be even better."

Webber will play for Penticton of the British Columbia Hockey League next season before attending Boston University in 2020-21. 

 

When we meet again

Defenseman Henry Thrun, No. 39 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, received an ovation as the last player to complete the seven tests at the combine. 

The 6-foot-2, 190-pound left-handed shot, who will attend Harvard University in the fall, was also one of 17 players from the NTDP Under-18 team invited to the combine. Thrun was asked if he thinks this collection of NTDP players at the combine could join forces once again as teammates for the United States in the Winter Olympics one day.

"That would be something," he said. "I think we have a special talented group of players on this team and I know we're all going to have successful careers. Hopefully one day we can all come together again and play for an Olympic gold medal."

NHL.com deputy managing editor Adam Kimelman and NHL.com correspondent Heather Engel contributed to this report.

 

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