Tij Iginla and Berkly Catton combine

The 2024 NHL Scouting Combine is taking place this week at KeyBank Center and LECOM HarborCenter in Buffalo. The combine will allow NHL teams an opportunity to conduct interviews and provide physical and medical assessments of the top prospects eligible for the 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft. NHL.com will bring you all the sights and sounds.

BUFFALO -- The friendly rivalry between Western Hockey League forward standouts Tij Iginla and Berkly Catton took on a whole new meaning at the 2024 Scouting Combine this week.

Iginla, who plays for Kelowna, had 84 points (47 goals, 37 assists) in 64 games this season. He had 20 scheduled interviews with NHL teams this week. Catton, who plays for Spokane, had 116 points (54 goals, 62 assists) in 68 games. He had 22 interviews.

"He's a good buddy of mine and a really special player," Iginla said of Catton. "He has great edges and great skating mechanics and is really smart. I think he sees the ice really well and has good vision, and I think he can score goals and can pass."

Catton spoke glowingly of Iginla.

"From last year to this year, his growth in his game is pretty phenomenal," Catton said. "I give him lots of credit. He had an awesome year and he's going to keep improving."

Each player is expected to be among the top forwards chosen in the early part of the first round. The big debate is which player is selected first? Catton is No. 8 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters. Iginla, the son of Hockey Hall of Fame forward Jarome Iginla, is No. 9.

Early in the season, Catton and Iginla got into a fight late in the third period of Spokane’s 8-5 victory in October.

"The game was over, so there's probably a little bit of frustration because we just lost, but it was a bit of a scrum and I went over and was pushing him a little bit and then I think he said, 'Let's go,' and then we fought," Iginla said. "It was a good one."

Catton said, "It wasn't a set-up either. It was just two competitors, really. I feel like our skilled battles are noticeable on the ice all the time, so maybe we decided to let the hands loose a little bit and go at it. We're still great buddies."

Each player brings so much on the ice, particularly in their creativity with the puck. The combine was an opportunity to showcase some off-ice strength and ability. Catton didn't perform any of the lower-body tests, but did finish with a greater power output than Iginla on the bench press, when players are required to do 50 percent of their body weight.

"I did pretty good on the bench press, so that was fun," Catton said.

Iginla did seven more pull-ups than his friend.

One other player who could be considered by NHL teams when around the time Iginla and Catton are mentioned is Konsta Helenius, who also tested well this week.

Helenius, No. 3 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of International skaters, had 36 points (14 goals, 22 assists) in 51 games for Jukurit in Liiga, Finland's top professional men's league. His 36 points ranked fourth in a single season among under-18 skaters in league history (Aleksander Barkov, 48; Mikael Granlund, 40; Kaapo Kakko, 38).

Helenius and Iginla each said the Wingate cycle ergometer bike test to measure the explosiveness of a skater was probably the toughest test of the day.

"I was a little bit nervous going into the testing, but it ended up being good," Iginla said. "I think I did pretty good in some of the areas, and to finish with that 30-second Wingate was definitely a long 30 seconds, but happy it's done."

Helenius held a slim advantage over Iginla in peak power output on the Wingate, but Iginla lasted 18 seconds longer than Helenius on VO2max duration, another bike test that might measure a player's ability to recover from a shift and continue performing at a high level.

"The Wingate is tough because you've done your jumps, maybe 15 or so, max jumps and then pull-ups, all those things, and then you get [to Wingate] and it's 30 seconds that feels like two minutes," Iginla said. "You've got the guys screaming in your face ... but it was fun."

Iginla went three feet longer than Helenius on the horizontal jump, and the players were even on the vertical jump.

NHL.com independent correspondent Heather Engel contributed to this report

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