BUFFALO, NY - The 2016 Scouting Combine is in the books. Next stop? Right back in Buffalo for the 2016 NHL Draft at the end of the month. It was a long week for the more than 100 prospects in attendance at the Combine, and it was also a long few days for the NHL clubs, who interviewed and scouted those players. Here are five observations from the Combine, after speaking with many of the prospects in attendance.
1. CHIARELLI TALKS DEALS
Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli is not one to give away his trade secrets, but he did provide a little tease to Oilers TV in Buffalo.
During The Panel, Chiarelli did say there have been discussions with other teams. The Combine presents a unique opportunity to get general managers in the same room before things come to a head at the draft.
"All I can tell you is I've had a lot of discussions here," said Chiarelli. "(The Combine) is another useful tool for a general manager because most general managers are here. We're all in the rink, we're all within walking distance of each other. It's a very casual environment so it's a good, casual breeding ground for those decisions."
Chiarelli has also made public before that teams have called to inquire about the fourth-overall pick. Perhaps those exploratory conversations continued as teams interviewed the top prospects this week in Buffalo.
2. TKACHUK A WINNER
I had the chance to talk one-on-one with Matthew Tkachuk for the first time, and he seems team-first and driven. I asked him what he would tell a team in the top five, like the Oilers, to convince them he was worthy of that selection.
He said, "I'm a winner. I've proven that over the last couple of years. I know how to win and I know how to bring that winning mentality to a team. Personally, I think I am a really competitive player and I'm a smart hockey player. I think that's what a lot of teams need."
Tkachuk backs that statement up on film and with his accomplishments, having helped London secure a Memorial Cup Championship. The winger's stock has been rising of late, per reports and that has him firmly in the mix right around the range the Oilers currently sit, at the top of the first round.
3. INTEREST IN SERGACHEV
Don't let the title fool you. The Oilers showed interest in all of the top defencemen in attendance, interviewing them as well as 85 total players at the Combine. However, Sergachev has an interesting Oilers connection.
The Winsor defenceman played under former Oilers assistant Rocky Thompson. Sergachev says he knows Thompson has had discussions with Edmonton. He has also spoken to them, even before the Combine.
"I met them like twice during the year," said Sergachev. "It was kind of interesting. They told me my strengths and weaknesses, they told me what I have to work on. Maybe they will draft me, who knows? I don't know."
Sergachev is the eighth-ranked North American skater by Central Scouting, and one of the top defencemen available. He also came to Buffalo looking physically intimidating. He officially weighed in at 221.36 pounds, to go along with a 6-foot-2.25 frame.
Sergachev said in their conversations, the Oilers told him they'd like to see him be more aggressive in the defensive zone.
The Oilers did their homework on several top defencemen. Sergachev is clearly one of them.
4. NHL READY?
Obviously, the majority of these top prospects want to make the jump right away but few will. Tkachuk was very honest on that, and concedes there's work left to do before he can play.
"Right now, I don't think I'm ready," he said. "But after a whole summer and training camp, it's a whole different scenario. I need to treat my body right over the summer and get bigger, get stronger and get more explosive. I'm going to need a huge summer, but if that happens then you never know what's going to happen. I want to make it harder on the team to send me back."
After the Oilers placed fourth in the Draft Lottery, Chiarelli said that Edmonton sits at the top of the second tier of players. When asked if they're immediate impact players or if they will need time he said the following:
"I wouldn't characterize those next group of players that would come in right away. I wouldn't characterize it as that. You never know, but I certainly wouldn't plan on it."
That doesn't mean a player in that group can't turn some heads, which is what Tkachuk wants to do. Another player with a similar mentality is defenceman Jakob Chychrun.
"It's been a goal of mine to play in the NHL at 18," said Chychrun. "I have my eyes set on that, but I'm an open book. At the end of the day, I know the NHL teams know what is best for us as players. My goal is to show up to camp and make it tough on them to send me back. If I do that, I feel I did my job. I want to play in the NHL at 18. I think every kid does. So I am going to go there, fight for a spot and if they send me back I am more than willing to go back another year and improve more, work on my game and just be ready for the next opportunity."
|Photo by Jeff Nash | Oilers TV |
5. GREAT LOCATION
My fifth and final observation from the weekend is about the city of Buffalo itself as the location for the Combine.
The Harbor Center is a great spot, with everything the prospects need for testing. The location has enough space for the media to work, and great access to the players and staff. It is also attached to a nice, new hotel which serves as quick access for the visiting team staffs and media.
It's also in a great hockey town, so I'm eager to see the support for the draft at the end of the month. I hope they extend the Combine's stay in Buffalo. It's a good setup.
And to answer your question, it's Duff's for chicken wings. That's where to go.