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McDavid, Eichel start Combine interview process

by Mike Morreale / Edmonton Oilers

BUFFALO -- Erie Otters center Connor McDavid and Boston University center Jack Eichel got their first taste of what life might be like in the NHL during the first day of team interviews at the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine on Tuesday at First Niagara Center.

McDavid interviewed with two teams, among them the Edmonton Oilers, who hold the No. 1 pick of the 2015 NHL Draft, which will be held June 26-27 at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla. He has three interviews remaining Wednesday.

Eichel had three of his scheduled six interviews Tuesday, including one with the Buffalo Sabres, who hold the No. 2 pick.

In addition to their interviews, each player said he expects to participate in all 12 fitness tests that are part of the Combine, including the VO2 max and Wingate Ergometer bike tests.

Photo by Getty Images.

"At the end of the day the fitness testing part is just a baseline," McDavid said. "Look at a guy like [Nashville Predators forward] James Neal. I don't even think he did one bench press when he went to the Combine. Now he's just an absolute beast. So I guess it gives you an idea of what could happen."

Eichel said there were no surprises during his interviews Tuesday.

"The teams are pretty straightforward," he said. "They want to get to know you and learn about your family and about your season. I think they want to get an idea of some of the other players as well, so they ask what it was like to play against and with other players."

Eichel, No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2015 draft, said he was grateful for the time he got with Sabres management team, including coach Dan Bylsma.

"The odds are good that I'll be selected here so it's nice to get a feel for the city and meet the management," he said.

McDavid, No. 1 on Central Scouting's final ranking, said he was nervous prior to meeting with the Oilers' management group, which included general manager Peter Chiarelli.

"It was exciting and obviously that's the kind of team you want to be with if you are drafted No. 1," McDavid said. "[Chiarelli] was saying all the right things. He was intense and he's definitely looking to win. He's not going to settle for mediocrity."

McDavid and Eichel are two of 120 players that were invited to the Combine this week, among them 99 North American players and 21 international players.

McDavid was named the Canadian Hockey League player of the year May 30. He was third in the Ontario Hockey League with 120 points and tied for fourth with 44 goals in 47 regular-season games. He had points in 45 of 47 games, 36 multi-point games and a streak of 27 games with at least a point, the longest in the OHL since the 2007-08 season.

"There were really no questions asked that surprised; they were the type of questions you're going to expect a lot of teams ask," McDavid said. "I just want to make an impression with teams I talk to, make sure they understand what kind of guy I am and what I can bring to their team.

Photo by Getty Images.

"Other than that I just want to make sure they know I'm doing all the right things, working hard in the gym, and maybe they'll put together a decent score for me."

McDavid's season ended in the OHL final when Erie lost to the eventual Memorial Cup champion Oshawa Generals in five games.

McDavid said the Oilers asked why he felt Erie lost to Oshawa. McDavid led all OHL players in the postseason with 21 goals and 49 points in 20 games, but had two goals and seven points in five games against Oshawa.

"I think we were excited after beating Sault Ste. Marie [in the conference final] and I would say a lot of people were kind of content with being [in the championship]," McDavid said. "I know for a lot of other guys it was different; we really wanted it. I don't know if we peaked but we were excited and happy after beating the Greyhounds."

Eichel said last week he was called in for his final meeting with Boston University coach David Quinn prior to the summer break.

"He was just talking about next season and what my plans were; it's tough to give him a grasp on what I might do. But he just gave me the pros and cons of both options," Eichel said of returning to school next season or turning pro. "The Combine is just another part of the process and it's exciting to be here. It's been a long year and the [Combine] was a date I definitely marked on the calendar. It's great to see a lot of people and kind of get the process [to the NHL draft] rolling."

He said Tuesday he hasn't made any decision for next season, and that one won't be made until after the draft.

Eichel became the second college freshman, and first since Paul Kariya at the University of Maine in 1993, to win the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's best player. He led the NCAA in scoring with 71 points in 40 games. He also had 45 assists, a 1.78 points-per-game average and a plus-51 rating.

BU won the Beanpot Tournament and the Hockey East regular-season and postseason championships. Along the way Eichel set a Hockey East tournament record with 11 points. He also joined the United States at the 2015 IIHF World Championship in the Czech Republic. He had two goals and seven points in 10 games to help the U.S. win the bronze medal. Bylsma was an assistant coach with the U.S.

"It was a great experience [at the World Championship]; I was really happy I made the decision to go over and play there," Eichel said. "I think I learned a lot from the older guys, playing with the pros and being around them. I think I learned about myself as a player and person. It was a good way to end my season playing at that level. I think I realized a lot of things I can work on and get better at before next season."

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