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Top prospects get put to the test

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- Aaron Haydon can be forgiven if he was a little winded after Tuesday's activity at the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at Scotiabank Saddledome.

He might've been running a little low on energy.

After skipping two games on the weekend with a bout of the flu before returning Sunday to play for his Niagara IceDogs, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound defenseman admitted both off-ice and on-ice components to Tuesday's testing left him gasping for air.

"I'm pretty sure it was the flu," Haydon started. "The team was worried it was mono. I'm feeling better.

"I don't think [being winded] this has to do with any conditioning but I'm a little out of breath for a couple of them. I fell on one of them so I had to go again so that bagged me a little bit. It's pretty easy out there for the conditioning part."

It might have been the air, according to Sam Reinhart.

Despite calling Cranbrook, British Columbia, home during the season, Central Scouting's No. 4 ranked North American skater admitted the altitude adjustment was enough to make his lungs work overtime.

"I think most guys coming into Calgary are getting used to the air and elevation," Reinhart said. " Every skate is helpful. I'm still getting used to it and I've been here longer than most guys. Every skate is definitely helpful."

Divided into their respective teams, those chosen to participate in the Top Prospects Game were put through the paces by Sport Testing in a plethora of dry land drills designed to grade, measure and quantify their abilities in hand grip, medicine ball toss, vertical jump, standing broad jump and pro agility.

After a 45-minute recovery break, prospects hit the ice to test their skills in a 30-meter sprint as well as drills to evaluate reaction time, lateral agility, multi-directional changes and transitional agility, both with and without pucks.

Players -- and the dozens of scouts and NHL executives looking on -- monitored results on the Flames Energy Board hanging above center ice.

Having his results immediately thrown up on the 162-inch screen was enough to make Red Deer Rebels captain Conner Bleackley a little tense.

"I think the on-ice was a little more nerve wracking with the scoreboard up there and everybody watching," he said. "I think I had fun doing both the off-ice and the on-ice and seeing where the other guys are at. As soon as you go, you're giving the old look up and seeing if you're in the top. That stuff kind of is what it is but it is nice to be up near the top."

In terms of practicality, though, Reinhart wasn't sure how effectively the drills translated into quantified skills.

"Personally, I don't think it really impacts my game too much," he said. "I'm probably not one that's lighting the boards on the testing ever. Personally, I don't look into it too much. All you can do is try your hardest out there. Some people might look into it more, I'm not sure but I'm not too focused on it."

Goaltenders found their session to be much more game-like. Julio Billia, Mason McDonald, Alex Nedeljkovic and Ty Edmonds closed out the day with a bevy of drills designed specifically for the puck-stoppers.

"We move around like that all the time," Edmonds said. "It's just something I'm used to. It's just second nature when I'm doing that out there."

Edmonds and his counterparts were paced through drills that pushed their shot recovery, long recovery, y-drill reaction pad slide and pro agility pad slide.

Short recovery evaluated lateral crease mobility in both directions, as well as transitional speed from a set position into the butterfly whereas long recovery tested explosiveness, movement speed and body control. Y-drill reaction pad slide gave a reaction speed and total response time for each goaltender, while the final drill, pro agility pad slide, monitored leg power.

While goaltenders in the QMJHL and OHL are more used to the types of tests, the Prince George Cougars goalie admitted the on-ice component was a little out of his element.

"It was interesting," he said. "I've never done anything like that. I know the other guys have before down in the OHL and the Q but I've never done anything like that. I just took it in stride. It was pretty cool, actually."

Although there was just the four of them on the ice, Edmonds admitted it didn't take long for the competitive nature of the goaltenders to shine through.

"Those three are three of the top goalies in the CHL so you're trying to compete against them and try to just prove yourself and do as best you can against them," said Edmonds, the eighth-ranked North American goalie in Central Scouting's midterm ratings. "You want them to succeed and obviously you want yourself to as well. They're three of the top goalies in the CHL so you just try to compare yourself and try to be better than they are."

That competitive aspect wasn't unique to the goalies; it ran throughout the day.

"I think it's fun," Haydon said. "It's a competition in a way. It's exciting. These are the best 40 guys in Canada. To be able to say I beat one of the best at a drill, it's exciting."

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