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LIVE BLOG: At the 2012 NHL Scouting Combine

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers
Well, as they say in the business (I think), that's a wrap! It's been a hectic couple days in Mississauga, but we've compiled a list of 26 prospect interviews, one-on-ones with GM Steve Tambellini, Head Amateur Scout Stu MacGregor and more.



Well, that was a crazy day! In total, spoke to 22 prospects in nine hours and have audio/video for each. We also had a chance to catch up with Oilers Head Amateur Scout Stu MacGregor:
...and we're not done yet! Check back tomorrow because we've got plenty more planned.

No. 1-ranked Nail Yakupov goes head-to-head with the dreaded Wingate bike test at the 2012 NHL Scouting Combine.

Good morning, Toronto! Well, I guess we're technically in Mississauga -- but good morning nontheless!

We've set up shop at the International Centre where the Top 105 prospects are going to be through the paces in an intense, one-hour physical test at the 2012 NHL Scouting Combine. Stay tuned throughout the day as we'll be providing live updates, audio, video and more.

On Thursday, we spoke with Nail Yakupov, Mikhail Grigorenko, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Murray and Oilers General Manager Steve Tambellini to recap the interview(s) portion of the Combine.




6:30 AM - Josh Anderson, Slater Koekkoek, Colton Sissons, Francis Beauvillier, Matia Marcantuoni, Zachary Stepan, Martin Frk, Morgan Rielly


Morgan Rielly

It wasn't the season Morgan Rielly was expecting. While he set a point-per-game pace in his first 18 regular-season contests, ACL surgery forced him to miss the rest of the campaign. He returned in the post-season (Apr. 20), recording three assists in a third-round series loss against the Edmonton Oil Kings.

"It took a couple games to get back into the swing of things," he said. "I felt I improved as I continued playing, but it took a couple games to get back in that playoff mindset."

Rielly's knee wasn't a problem during the tests and was glad the most daunting part was over with.

"It was tough, but I'm pretty happy it how it went. It was a battle for sure.

"I certainly had a whole lot of questions about how it's doing (in the interviews with the 24 teams he met with), but I didn't have any problems with it here today and it feels good."

Colton Sissons may be an unkown to many, but the Kelowna Rockets captain had a sparkling season in which he collected 26 goals and 41 points in 58 regular-season games.

"I'm a two-way forward," he said. "I like to play physical and get into the dirty areas, I'm not scared of that. At the same time, I can put up numbers and score some nice goals. The two-way style of game is right up my alley.

"I have the biggest leadership role on my team and that's something I'll take into the pro level."

Sissons was smiling throughout his interview and didn't look at all bothered by the tests' difficult physical challenge. That doesn't mean he'd want to do them over again, mind you.

"I fought it (throwing up) down. I won the battle," he laughed. "I'd done the Wingate before, so I knew what that was about. But the V02 Max was a lovely surprise."

7:30 AM - Cody Ceci, Brian Hart, Anthony Stolarz, Alex Galchenyuk, Scott Kosmachuk, Dalton Thrower, Zemgus Girgensons, Jordan Schmaltz, Jimmy Vesey

Alex Galchenyuk
Alex Galchenyuk has No. 1 overall potential that was widely seen in 2011-12. He posted 31 goals and 83 points in 63 games with the OHL's Sarnia Sting (along with Nail Yakupov). Like Yakupov and other Russians attending the Combine, a common question asked in his interviews was whether or not he had any interest in playing in the KHL.

Of course, he's also a person with dual citizenship (Russian and American).

"Some thought I might go to the KHL," he said. "I answered seriously and told them I'm not going.

"I'm a competitive person on and off the ice, so it was nice to compete," he added about the Combine experience. "But it's not about competing against the other players; it's about competing against myself. I wanted to show the teams what kind of competitor I am and what I can do in the gym."

Cody Ceci is ranked sixth overall among North American Skaters by Central Scouting. He put up a remarkable 17 goals and 60 points in 64 games with the OHL's Ottawa 67s in 2011-12, and is a highly-regarded prospect not only for those totals, but for his defensive play as well.

"I'm a two-way defenceman," he said. "I like to jump up in the rush and move the puck up to the forwards -- be that late guy and get involved in the scoring chances. I also play against other teams' top lines every night, so I've got to be responsible in my own end and I think that's pretty important."

8:30 AM - Mikhail Grigorenko, Derrick Pouliot, Henrik Samuelsson, Ryan Murray, Jacob Trouba, Devin Shore, Nicolas Kerdiles, Francois Tremblay, Damon Severson


Ryan Murray
It was revealed yesterday that CSS's No. 1-ranked player, Nail Yakupov, would be visiting Edmonton next week.

Ryan Murray, while non-committal about it as he addressed the media, will be too.

"I'm not too sure (if I'm going)," he said. "My agent's handling all that stuff right now. I'm going to New Jersey for Game 2 (of the Stanley Cup Final) and then who knows. My interview with Edmonton was good. I knew (Oilers President of Hockey Operations) Kevin Lowe from the World Championship and I talked to him there."

Edmonton Oil Kings winger Henrik Samuelsson, ranked 75th overall among North American Skaters, is poised to take the next step. Coming off a 50-win, 107-point season in Edmonton, he couldn't have asked for a better precursor to a pro career.

"Winning the WHL Championship was pretty surreal," he said. "We thought we had a pretty good chance at winning the Memorial Cup, but nothing clicked and we didn't play the way that we could."

Samuelsson is the son of former NHL great, Ulf. He commented on the support he's been given throughout his career to this point.

"He's taught me almost everything I know about hockey. It's been great having him as my dad."

One of Samuelsson's opponents from the intense, seven-game WHL Championship Series was also present in the third group. Portland Winterhawks defenceman Derrick Pouliot was still disappointed with the result in allowing the Oil Kings to win, but thought his club gave it everything they could.

"It was tough. That (series) was especially tough," he said. "Two years in a row we were one game away from winning it and moving on to the Memorial Cup. It was a heartbreaker."

Pouliot, 6'0" and 181 pounds, scored an incredible 11 goals and 59 points in 72 regular-season games en route to the Winterhawks' Western Conference Championship.

"My hockey sense is good," he explained, describing his best qualities. "I have good vision of the ice, I'm a good skater and use those things to my advantage."

9:30 AM - Ryan Culkin, Brendan Gaunce, Thomas Wilson, Mathew Dumba, Griffin Reinhart, Mike WInther, Filip Forsberg, Patrick Sieloff

Griffin Reinhart
Fresh off his club's run to the Memorial Cup, Griffin Reinhart had little time to rest before coming to Toronto. If you've ever seen the 6'4", 197-pound defenceman play, you'd notice that he's an intimidating, but calm and poised individual.

"Part of it was passed down from my dad (Paul Reinhart) and in seeing the way he used to play -- I think I play a similar style. My personality off the ice is pretty similar to how it is on the ice. I think that can be an asset to my game, but also one of the biggest drawbacks that I'm trying to work on."

Reinhart was a beast in the post-season, shutting down other teams' top lines and contributing offensively as the Oil Kings captured the WHL Championship.

"Especially since Christmas this year when guys left for the World Juniors, my role stepped up a little bit and I elevated it all the way to the playoffs -- and it was an even bigger step up there and through to the Memorial Cup."

His polar opposite, Mat Dumba, was also a part of the 9:30am group. The high-risk, high-reward rearguard said that 2011-12 was a learning curve, but he's become more of a responsible player over the past 365 days.

"With my coach Jesse Wallin in Red Deer, the coaching staff has helped me become more reliable and take on more responsibility -- to be more accountable in all areas. I think I've really done that, I've shown it and proved it to everyone."

Still, Dumba had a sensational offensive season, scoring 20 goals and 57 points in 60 games.

"It's nice to be done all that," he laughed. "With the anticipation that's built up all week, it gets pretty intense."

11:30 AM - Max Iafrate, Kevin Roy, Brandon Whitney, Ben Johnson, Brady Skjei, Nail Yakupov, Melindy James, Malcom Subban

Nail Yakupov
The projected No. 1 overall pick was in a pleasant mood, as always, as he addressed the media post-workout.

"It's a big day for me," he said, smiling. "We're having fun here. You've got to show how hard you can work and how hard you can push. I feel great. You've got to be excited about hockey and show everything you can. To play in the NHL, you've got to try (hard).

"I think it's the best moment of my life. [My career] has started -- right here, right now at the Combine."

The high-octane winger is understandly excited about his trip to Edmonton next week, but is fully focused on the task at hand no matter where he lands come June 22.

"You've got to work. It doesn't matter what team I'm going to be on, I'm going to play and do everything for them."

12:30 PM - Phillip Di Giuseppe, Jon Gillies, Cristoval Nieves, Radek Faksa, Olli Maata, Brandon Troock, Matthew Finn, Jake McCabe

Radek Faksa
Radek Faksa spent the 2011-12 season with the OHL's Kitchener Rangers, scoring 29 goals and 67 points in 62 games. He helped Oilers prospect Tobias Rieder have a breakout season and also represented the Czech Republic at the 2012 World Junior Championship in Edmonton and Calgary.

Not bad, rookie.

"It was a great experience," he said, barely breathing after completing the all-out fitness tests. "I'd never played such good hockey or before so many people, so it was a great experience.

"I'm a power forward. I'm strong on the puck and I'm more of a playmaker than a goal-scorer."

Olli Maatta was also an OHL rookie this past season, notching 32 points and a +25 rating in 58 regular-season games. He didn't stop there, either, as the self-described "all-around D man" scored 23 points in 19 post-season games to help the London Knights advance to the Memorial Cup.

Sadly, the run ended with an overtime loss to the Shawinigan Cataractes in the Championship Final.

"One goal. That's what we needed," he said, looking back. "But I'm really proud of the guys, proud of the team for what we accomplished. It's the best team I've ever played on.

"It's been a long season, so I'm looking forward to taking a week off to relax."

1:30 PM - Andreas Athanasiou, Samuel Kurker, Mitchell Moroz, Robert Baillargeon, Jarrod Maidens, Tanner Pearson, Mark Jankowski, Stefan Matteau

Mitch Moroz
Tanner Pearson had an incredible year with the OHL's Barrie Colts, scoring 37 goals and 91 points in 60 games. In doing so, he was selected to play for Team Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championship -- one of only two undrafted players to receive the honour.

The other was Everett's Ryan Murray. Combined and with 20 others, they helped Canada win a Bronze Medal.

"It was a lot of fun to playwith those high-calibre guys," he said. "It's the best hockey for our age group at this level. It's unfortunate how it ended, but at least we ended up with something."

Pearson currently has a broken ankle. As such, he was unable to participate in most of the tests today.

"I'd rather have done the tests instead of having a broken ankle, but it happened," he laughed, referencing the tests' obvious difficulty.

Also in the late group was Edmonton Oil Kings winger Mitchell Moroz. Only days removed from competing at the Memorial Cup in Shawinigan, he was in good spirits and was glad for the bike tests to be over. But before that could begin, he was hit with something more unexpected when being interviewed by an NHL club (he spoke to 25 teams in total).

"Someone asked what animal I'd be and that caught me a little off guard, but most (interview questions) were pretty standard -- they're just trying to get to know you.

"I said a wolf, because most guys would say a lion or tiger so I thought I'd try and throw them off," he laughed.

Overall in a breakout 2011-12 season in which he and the Oil Kings captured the 'Dub's prestigious title, he considers the season an all-out success.

"It was a great experience. I learned a lot, and winning the WHL Championship was our ultimate goal. We don't look at it as a negative. We won our league."

The United States Development Program continues to churn out quality players, and Stefan Matteau's name is one you'll be hearing over and over as his career progresses. The 6'2", 210-pound pivot couldn't be happier with his season and the program's unique preparation model.

"It's pretty cool. I haven't seen my teammates in a couple weeks, and I even saw some older friends from older teams that I hadn't seen a couple years," he said.

"USA Hockey has picked it up. It's a development team, the best 20 players in the nation."

Matteau's mettle was proven this past season, having recorded over 100 penalty minutes in a short, 40-game season. But it was tested once more by the NHL's 'cruel' punishment tactics (or, as they call it: fitness testing).

"It was tough but we're all in good shape," he laughed. "It was more of a mental thing at this point. It was a pretty long week, a busy week. But it was a fun process. If I could do it over again, I would."



Friday ended with hurricane-like winds and a downpour I haven't seen in...well, maybe ever. It was so intense, Toronto's subway line was halted as Union Station flooded (that probably explains why the Gardiner Expressway was packed on our way to the Blue Jays game at almost 8pm). 

But the sun is shining today and we're ready for more action at the Combine! Today is a much lighter day on the schedule and we've narrowed our list to the four biggest-name prospects: Tomas Hyka, Lukas Sutter, Tomas Hertl and Erik Karlsson. (No, not the Norris Trophy candidate.)

Stay tuned as we'll have a live summary and audio/video interviews with each. They've yet to begin their tests, so I'm going to go and track down some coffee.

11:29am: I had a couple moments to get a close look at the testing (it was wall-to-wall yesterday, so I could only hear it in the background). Watching/listening to these prospects tackle the Wingate Cycle Ergometer VO2 Max bike tests is incredible. They're going all-out, screaming their lungs out because they're working so hard while others scream right back in encouragement.

It's inspiring. These kids want it so bad.

11:36am: Speaking of wanting it bad, Tomas Hyka just completed the Wingate. He cracked a little smile once it was over. These kids really do thrive on the pain.

Tomas Hyka
12:29pm: Just had a chance to chat with Hyka. The 19-year-old has been through this process before, but wasn't chosen in 2011. He still made a trip to North America, signing on to play with the QMJHL's Gatineau Olympiques -- scoring 20 goals and 64 points in a 50-game rookie campaign last season.

"It's so much better in Canada than in the Czech Republic," he said, noting the chance he's been given. "I have more space on the ice and more opportunities, so that's why I came to Canada. Gatineau has been a good experience and they wanted me to play there. I'm happy I went there.

"(Fellow Czech and ex-NHLer) Radim Vrbata played there and he's from the same town that I'm from." 

He was also invited to Philadelphia Flyers training camp in Septemer and had a productive pre-season. Philadelphia tried to sign him to an entry-level deal, but a rule in the CBA dictates that no undrafted European player can be signed until he's 22 years of age.

"It was unbelievable. I didn't even know that I'd get to go to any camp. It was amazing when they sent me the email and invited me. I was so happy, I played two games and scored in both. They almost signed me -- but they couldn't and I was pretty sad, but it was a good experience."

So he's back again, hoping for a better outcome this time around. Ranked 45th overall among North American Skaters, it seems unlikely that June will past without an assignment in the NHL.

"[The Combine] was really tough, but it's a good experience to be here. I did my best."

Lukas Sutter
12:49pm: Lukas Sutter showed every expression imaginable as he completed the Wingate and VO2 Max.

"Leave it all out there," he said, proudly. "You've got nothing to save it for.

"It's a challenge. Can't really describe it, but once you're through it, it's all said and done so it's good to be done.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and you want to make the most of it," he added about the experience as a whole. "Youou don't get to be around these teams all that much, so you want to be a sponge and soak it all up."

2011-12 was Sutter's sophomore season in the WHL, putting up 28 goals and 59 points in 70 games -- a staunch improvement over the previous campaign in which he scored only four goals and 19 points.

"I really tried to take advantage of my opportunities," he explained. "My coaches were very open to me, we have a very good relationship and are a very honest with each other. That really helped me. I got an opportunity to play in some key situations and, again, I tried to make the most of it.

"We also brought in a guy like Brayden Schenn at the deadline. My minutes were reduced a bit, but I also got the opportunity to learn from the best player in junior hockey. I credit a lot of my success to him."

Without a doubt, it's impossible to hide with such a famous name. (Lukas is the son of Rich, who spent his career with the Philadelphia Flyers, Vancouver Canucks, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning. Yes, he was well-traveled.) But while every team "knew everything" about him and his family coming in, he said it's been advantageous to his career success.

"It's (the Sutter name) a legacy in the game of hockey. I don't feel any pressure, but it is something you want to live up to. My dad, uncles and cousins have all done a very good job of that and it's something that pushes you to be better every day."

Tomas Hertl with his translator
1:06pm: Tomas Hertl is an intriguing prospect, and you might have heard his name at the 2012 World Junior Championship has he represented the Czech Republic in Edmonton. The 18-year-old spent 2011-12 with Slavia Praha in the Czech Elite League, scoring 12 goals and 25 points in 38 games.

"It was a great experience (at the WJC)," said his translator, who helped him out throughout the week in Toronto. "He'd never played before so many fans as he did in Edmonton and Calgary. The size of the ice worked in his favour, actually. He said it's better for his game to play on the smaller ice.

"He says he's excited (for the draft) and that he won't be able to sleep for the next 20 days."

While Nail Yakupov, Ryan Murray and Filip Forsberg had gained much of the attention in recent days, No. 2-ranked European prospect Teuvo Teravainen made an appearance as one of the last players to run the gauntlet. Stay tuned for a full feature on him later in the week.

Erik Karlsson
2:09pm: It's not unusual for Erik Karlsson to be confused with the other Erik Karlsson. But it shouldn't be too surprising, either. While they share the same name, they're also from the same town and played on the same team (Frolunda) in Sweden when they were younger. Not at the same time, mind you, but he's still been in close contact as they work out as the same gym.

As it turned out, there's plenty is common for a pair that aren't related.

"In my interviews, the teams asked me if I'm the real Erik Karlsson and I said yes. He's a great player and a good guy, a nice guy. I hope I can be as good as he is."

Karlsson is a winger (although he played defence when he was younger), and he scored 14 goals and 33 points in 47 games with the Frolunda J20 squad this past season. At 5'11" and 154 pounds, an obvious area to target improvement-wise this summer will be bulk and strength.

"Off-ice practice this summer is really important for me to get stronger," he said. "That's the big part, to be stronger and hit the gym.

"My greatest assets are my speed and hard work. I'm a two-way player that works for the team, so I hope I can bring that to the NHL."

2:22pm: That's it, that's all. We're pretty much the last people here. Now to rush back to the hotel, check out and spring to the airport for our flight back to Edmonton. It's been fun. Cheers!

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