BUFFALO -- The trip to get to the NHL Scouting Combine may turn out to be as memorable as the event itself for a dozen of the top Swedish hockey players and one Slovakian eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft.
After arriving at Newark Liberty International Airport to catch his connecting flight Sunday, Linkoping defenseman Gabriel Carlsson and 11 of his Swedish friends, along with Slovak goaltender Matej Tomek of the Topeka Roadrunners in the North American Hockey League, learned their flight to Buffalo had been canceled because of severe weather conditions.
Since catching another flight would encompass shuttles to different airports in New York for different groups of players, everyone agreed to get on a bus Monday morning and make the seven-hour ride to Buffalo.
"I was glad we got the bus because I wouldn't have wanted to go by plane the next day since I only had tickets for a connected flight; it would have been really hard with my baggage and time scheduling," Tomek said. "I was glad the NHL found a bus very quickly and we could get here."
The group of top draft-eligible Swedes on the bus included Carlsson, No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of international skaters, defenseman Jacob Larsson of Frolunda's junior team (No. 3), teammates from Farjestad in the Swedish Hockey League forward Joel Eriksson Ek (No. 4) and defenseman Oliver Kylington (No. 6), forward Robin Kovacs of AIK in Sweden's second division (No. 8), Filip Ahl of HV 71's junior team (No. 9), forward Jens Looke of Brynas in the SHL (No. 10) and defenseman Jesper Lindgren (No. 19) of Modo's junior team. Brynas goaltender Felix Sandstrom, No. 3 on Central Scouting's final ranking of international goalies, also was along for the ride.
"We're always taking bus rides to away games back home so this was a normal experience for us," Sandstrom said. "We stopped once so we could buy what we need and get something to drink. We got in one hour before my first interview [at 4:15 p.m. ET]."
Swedish players from the Canadian Hockey League on the bus included defenseman Rasmus Andersson of the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League, No. 93 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, and defenseman Gustav Bouramman (No. 75) of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL.
Also catching a ride was center Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, ranked No. 31 on the North American list. Karlsson plays for the Omaha Lancers in the United States Hockey League.
Sandstrom said Andersson, Forsbacka Karlsson and Kylington took the lead in directing the other players during the trip, contacting NHL Central Scouting manager Nathan Ogilvie-Harris to provide an update.
"Each player kept in constant contact and kept me updated of their situation," Ogilvie-Harris said. "We continued to look into solutions while hotel reservations were being made. All Monday interviews originally scheduled for the 13 players on the bus were rescheduled for later in the week."
Tomek said it actually turned out to be a fun trip, even though he was the only non-Swede
"I played in the North American Hockey League so most of the travel time is spent on the bus; it was around six or seven hours," Tomek said. "I got my sleep and listened to my music and watched the movie 'Ironman.' It was nothing none of us couldn't handle."