-- While winning the Stanley Cup is the ultimate dream for any hockey player, the first step for many on that journey will come at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. But before teams make their final decisions, they'll make their way to Toronto this week for the NHL Draft Combine.
The event, which will host 107 of the best draft-eligible players from North America and Europe, will see the players put through a vigorous round of physical, medical and psychological tests that could determine where they are chosen when the teams convene in Ottawa on June 20-21.
"The Scouting Combine is designed to bring together in one spot, in an economical move, and Central Scouting has been charged with that mission … the League GMs say bring your top 100 rated players to one spot and then we'll get a crack at them," said E.J. McGuire, director of Central Scouting.
Among the best of the 2008 class who will be in attendance will be consensus No. 1 overall choice forward Steven Stamkos
of the Sarnia Sting, top defensemen like the Guelph Storm's Drew Doughty
, Kelowna Rockets teammates Tyler Myers
and Luke Schenn
, and Zach Bogosian
of the Peterborough Petes, and Russian forward Nikita Filatov
, the top-rated European prospect.
According to McGuire, there's a three-pronged approach to the Combine.
"First, there are interviews," McGuire said. "Bring them in and allow (teams) to get a fair crack, 20-25-minute slots, where they interview these kids to get a little more insight into their personalities."
To go along with the interview is a psychological evaluation that tests, according to McGuire, "neuropsychological and behavioral phenomena.”
"Can you really tell who's going to be your best player in Game 7 by typing it into a computer?" asked McGuire. "Probably not, but it might help. We provide rudimentary data, and most teams' sport psychologist consultant can take this information and use it as starting at first base, rather than starting at square one and develop a psychological assessment of a player. It's not meant to be a secretive selection device; it's one more piece of a large mosaic."
Another piece of that mosaic is a routine medical evaluation, where the players are seen by independent doctors who then provide their data to teams.
"They write up any red flags," McGuire said. "The team scouts, if they see a red flag, will say to the agent or kid, does our team doctor have permission to contact your team doctor directly. Teams want to be wary of not drafting damaged goods."
Most prominent is the physical testing – something that, surprisingly, does not include an on-ice component.
McGuire says there are a number of reasons for not putting the prospects on skates. First, for the top players, teams likely have seen them multiple times in person or on video already.
Also, there's the fact that some players, including many in U.S. colleges and high schools, haven't been on the ice since February – compared with a player such as Mikkel Boedker
of the Kitchener Rangers or Mitch Wahl
of the Spokane Chiefs, who played in the Memorial Cup championship game Sunday prior to coming to the Combine.
"Is it fair to the kid whose high school season ended in February to stand next to the kid who played in a championship game on Sunday?" said McGuire. "It might be unfair to the Memorial Cup participant if the (high school) kid had just been doing the Combine tests, sprinting five times as week, and not having to practice. That Memorial Cup guy, did he block a shot to win a championship and his ankle is sore?"
|Colin Wilson will be looking to improve his draft stock with an impressive showing at the Combine.
Instead, the players are put through their paces in a three-hour crucible which includes events as simple as the sit and reach, push-ups and sit-ups, right through high-tech tests like a Wingate anaerobic measure and an aerobic-max VO2 bike test.
Being put through their paces will be the top 75 North American skaters as rated by NHL Central Scouting. Besides the top players, there will be prospects looking to improve their draft stock with impressive showings, including defensemen Alex Pietrangelo
of the Niagara Ice Dogs and Michael Del Zotto
of the Oshawa Generals and forwards Colin Wilson
from Boston University and the Brampton Battalion’s Cody Hodgson
Besides Filatov, other top European prospects scheduled to attend include Swedish forward Mattias Tedenby
and Russian forwards Kirill Petrov
, Vjateslav Voinov
and Evgeny Grachev
Among the goaltending prospects in attendance will be the Guelph Storm's Thomas McCollum
, a New York native regarded as the best netminder available; Tri-City's Chet Pickard
; the Lewiston MAINEiacs' Peter Delmas
; Sweden's Jacob Markstrom
; and Finland's Harri Sateri
There also will be a number of familiar names at the Combine.
Wilson's father, Carey, played 10 NHL seasons, while Philip McRae
of the London Knights is the son of former NHLer Basil McRae
, who spent 17 seasons with seven teams. Val d'Or Foreurs center Maxime Sauve’s uncle is former NHL netminder Bob Sauve. David Carle
, a defenseman at Minnesota prep hockey powerhouse Shattuck-St. Mary’s, is following in the footsteps of his brother, Matt, a defenseman with the San Jose Sharks
. Finnish forward Joonas Rask
is the younger brother of Boston Bruins
goalie Tuukka Rask
Also, Russian forward Viktor Tikhonov
is the grandson of the Russian legend of the same name.
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com.