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Penguins Report: NHL Scouting Combine

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Vince Trocheck and J.T. Miller are the last Pittsburgh-area prospects to undergo the fitness testing, and yes, they were told horror stories (7:08 PM)
  • John Gibson tells us the most awkward question he faced during the interview process (2:09 PM).
  • Brandon Saad is the first Pittsburgh-area prospect to finish the fitness testing; see his thoughts (12:12 PM).
  • Miller and Trocheck did the fitness testing together; here's the proof (5:26 PM)
  • They even did the insane bike tests side-by-side (5:35 PM).
  • Photographic evidence of Saad at work (11:59 AM) and Gibson getting to business (2:09 PM).
  • Miller's roommate tries to scare him (3:03 PM)
  • The two bike tests the prospects undergo are ridiculously intense (9:44 AM; 12:11 PM and 6:44 PM).
  • There was a commotion breaking the din here at the Congress Centre (9:34 AM).
  • Pics of the setup here at the Toronto Congress Centre (2:37 PM).

7:42 PM:
Whew! We're finally done. Thanks to everyone who tuned in. It was a long day for us, but I'm sure it was even longer for the prospects. Check back to over the rest of the weekend for more Combine coverage!

7:08 PM:
We caught up with Trocheck and MIller before they got on the bus back to their hotel. Here's what they had to say...


On if he heard lots of horror stories being in the last group of the day:
Brandon went in earlier, he was my roommate. He went in the second group of the day. He came back and was telling me pretty much the whole day how bad it was going to be. It wasn’t as bad as he made it out tobe, but I kind of figured that would happen.

On if the setup was overwhelming:
I don’t think it was overwhelming, I think it was a little bit exciting. Just coming in and seeing all of these NHL teams, you know what you’re up here for and you’ve got to give it your all because they’re all watching.

On what was the hardest part of the fitness testing for him:
The Wingate was probably the hardest. I think that’s pretty much what everybody’s been saying. The VO2 was tough, just not as much strength goes into it as much as endurance.

On if the testing was what he expected:
You can never really train for something like those two bike tests. But knowing what I was getting myself into for getting those two, I think that definitely helped a little bit. But they’re two tests that are going to be grueling no matter how many times you do it before.

On how he felt he did on the fitness tests overall:
I think I did real well. I gave it my all on every single one I did, so I think that’s all you can really ask for whenever you’re doing fitness tests.

On how the interview aspect of the Combine went:
It was real good. It was a lot of fun. I talked to 20 different teams, so being able to go in and talk to GMs and scouts from all of these different teams – it’s good to see the different styles in the interviews and the different types of people in each interview.

On what his favorite part of the whole experience was:
The whole thing, you know, it was just a great experience to be able to come in here as one of the top 100 kids in the draft. It’s definitely an honor to be able to get invited here. There’s a lot of guys that wish they were in the shoes of the guys here. So to be able to come in and talk to 20 different teams, to be able to work out in front of NHL teams is almost like a dream come true.

On Saad being his roommate:
Well, we were kind of hoping we’d be put together. We didn’t want to go into it kind of not knowing who our roommate was. So being able to go through this experience and basically every experience we’ve gone through in the past year with the draft, being able to do it together has been great. So to be able to have him here as well, walking through it side-by-side with me has just been a great experience and a great year. I can’t wait to see what happens at the draft.


On if he heard lots of horror stories being in the last group of the day:
Everybody was being pretty dreadful about it the whole day. It was kind of making me a little worried. But as soon as I got here it kind of left my mind. I was pretty sick last week, so I was kind of hoping I could tough it out. I did the Wingate and I did pretty well, it’s just that I’m not feeling too well right now. It’s a tough break I couldn’t finish (the bike tests as a whole), but they said they didn’t want me doing it.

On what his favorite part of this week was:
It was kind of nice meeting all the guys from all the interviews and kind of seeing what every team was built like. There was a lot of people watching, so it was kind of nice to see how everybody performed.

On if he has a feel for what teams are more interested or if he’s just going to take the draft as it comes:
I’ll probably take it as it comes. Anything that happens is good for me. I’m just going to hope for the best and hopefully I get a good achievement here.

6:44 PM:
You know how I've been saying all day how intense the bike tests are and that we've been hearing players throwing up after they get off? Well, a player just lost his lunch in the middle of the VO2 Max Test. They had to bring a trash can out for him.

5:35 PM:
So Trocheck and Miller ended up doing the Wingate Ergometer Tests side-by-side. It was pretty cool to see...except I don't think they were enjoying themselves.

5:26 PM:
Since the two boys are in the last group of the day, most of the media has cleared out -- meaning OPTIMUM picture-taking conditions!

We caught Miller doing some of the stations on the right side of the room that we weren't able to get earlier with all of the people around:

Classic exercises: sit-ups and pushups

About to do the vertical jump test

5:05 PM:
Trocheck and Miller are moving right along. Trocheck is about to undergo the endurance tests, while Miller is currently doing the vertical jump.

Trocheck doing the upper body push and pull strength test before the situps

Miller before and after the wingspan measurements

Miller patiently waiting his turn -- deet da dee (left); Trocheck doing the vertical jump (right)

The bigger picture

4:18 PM:
And while we wait for Trocheck and Miller to begin, here's the video of Brandon Saad that PensTV put together:

4:15 PM:
It's almost time for Trocheck and Miller (who are in the last group of the day)! They begin testing at 4:30 p.m.

3:03 PM:
We've got a bit of downtime until the remaining two Pittsburgh-area prospects -- J.T. Miller and Vince Trocheck -- get to the Congress Centre for their testing. They're in the same group, which is awesome.

Miller kept a daily blog for for the first three days of the Combine (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday), and he told us that his roommate here in Toronto was USNTDP teammate Rocco Grimaldi.

Grimaldi was in the first fitness testing group from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. So of course, I asked Rocco if he was going to return to the hotel and tell J.T. any horror stories. His response?

"Oh, absolutely. I’m going to get in his head and I’m going to try and make him a little bit nervous. But I’m not going to try and make him too nervous. He’ll be great here."

I then asked J.T. if he had heard from Rocco and he said, "I sure did." While Miller said he wasn't getting nervous, he did say he was getting "just a little intimidated."

Here's Grimaldi talking to yours truly and Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

3:02 PM:
The aforementioned TSN studio setup...

2:37 PM:
I've got to say, this whole event is pretty awesome. I didn't expect it to be as big as it is.

The event is staged in a huge open room here at the Toronto Congress Centre, which is filled to the brim with equipment, exercise physiologists conducting the fitness testing, team personnel and media.

Lined on the right side of the room are a series of fitness testing stations and those go the length of the room. Once you hit the end of the wall, the aerobic and anaerobic tests are on the back wall facing the entire room so that the team personnel can watch.

Then on the left side of the room is where the media is stationed, including TSN and the NHL Network's studio setups.

2:09 PM:
Want to find out what the most awkward question John Gibson got asked in his interview process? Read more to find out...

On how the fitness testing went:
It was pretty rough. The bikes were tough, just because they were back-to-back. But other than that, it wasn’t too bad.

On if he finished all the tests:
Yeah. It started out pretty easy and then got pretty hard. It went downhill from there, but it was fun.

On not usually having to do tests like these as a goaltender:
It’s a little bit different, but obviously it’s good. You do the best you can, so you’ve just got to go out there and try your best.

On how the week has been overall:
It’s been a long week. The first day you get a lot of interviews, and it kind of went downhill from there. But it’s fun talking to every team. You hear some of the same questions and everything like that, so it gets easier as the week goes on.

On if he thought “I’m never going to have to do this type of physical activity standing in the crease” during the testing:
It doesn't really go through your head. You’re just in the moment and you just want to do the best you can. But now that I look back on it, it does kind of come in your head and you’re just like, ‘What did I do that for?’ But it gets you in shape, so that’s all that matters right now.

On how many teams he interviewed with this week:
About 22.

On if any of those teams expressed a particularly strong interest:
Some were good. Some were obviously better than the others. I don’t know, it just comes down to draft day and whoever really needs a goalie and wants to use a pick on me.

On which of his qualities he tried to sell to teams during his interviews:
I just tried to stay relaxed. I’m pretty calm and poised, so I took that in with me and just stayed relaxed. I think they definitely noticed that right from the start all the way to the end. I just tried to be myself, because it’s how I am. So I just kept it nice and simple.

On what his favorite part of the whole experience was:
Obviously this was pretty cool here. It was hard, but it was something that I’ll never forget. It’s going to stay with me for the rest of my life. It was fun, but it was also pretty hard at the same time.

On if he got any offbeat questions during the interviews:
The most awkward question I got asked was, ‘How do you cure a hangover?’ That was kind of out of nowhere, but that was definitely the most awkward one.

1:35 PM:
They break the prospects up into groups for the fitness testing, so Brandon Saad was in the test group that went from 9;30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. while John Gibson was in the group that went from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

A total of eight groups are going today, with eight players in each group. They have TV screens all over that have a column listing the prospects that are currently "On the Floor," with the main portion of the screen rotating a bio of each player.

Here's Gibson going through the testing:

Best picture ever on the left...Gibson giving us the "Blue Steel." Or maybe the "Magnum"? You be the judge...

Waiting to get his body fat measured (left); about to do his grip strength test (right)

High five? No? Alright (left); Gibson's petered out (right)

12:12 PM:
Brandon Saad -- the first Pittsburgh-area prospect to complete the testing -- filled the media in on his experience.

On if he was expecting that many people to be watching the fitness testing:
Yeah, a little bit. But it was definitely a lot different than training for it, when you’re in the room with a couple guys and doing the work. So it was a little unexpected, but it was a good experience.

On how the bike tests turned out for him:
You train for it, but when you get in this atmosphere you’re just getting a glimpse of how it’s done and then it’s just all different with everyone watching you.

On how the interview portion of the Combine went for him:
It went pretty well. I had a lot, so it was a little mentally draining, but it was a good experience overall getting to meet with the teams.

On how many teams he met with:
I had 27. I didn’t interview with Dallas, Los Angeles or Philadelphia.

On if there were any particularly hard or offbeat questions he had to answer:
It was kind of what I was expecting. It wasn’t too bad, especially after hearing stories in the past. They took it a little easy on us this year, I guess.

On if there was anything at all about the Combine process that he wasn't expecting:
I think the tests were a little harder than I expected. I mean, you train for them, but you don’t get as much rest. You go into one right after the other. It’s pretty grueling.

On if he has a feel for what teams are interested in him:
No, not for now. After this week and the process finishes up, I’ll probably have a better idea talking to them. But as of now, it’s pretty out in the open.

On how the overall experience was:
It was definitely exhausting and tiring, but looking back, it’s definitely a great experience I’ll remember forever.

On what his plans are now that the Combine is over for him:
Just working out back in Pittsburgh and looking forward to whoever picks me in the draft and going to support them.

12:11 PM:
Here's an actual real-time translation of what's being yelled at the players as they finish the VO2 Max and Wingate Ergometer Tests...


Intimidating? I think yes. I have actually heard the retching sounds of players throwing up once they get off.

11:59 AM:
Photographic evidence of Brandon Saad's fitness testing...

Doing the grip strength test -- look at those muscles pop (left); getting suited up for the Upper Body Push and Pull Strength test (right)

Getting instructions on the Wingate Ergometer Test (left); Brandon watching the guy next to him do an intense VO2 Max Test (right)

Ready...(left)...GO!!! (right)

11:30 AM:
Sorry there haven't been any updates for a while. How it works is that once the players are done testing, they have a cooling-off period before they come and talk to the media. Their recovery time from the fitness tests varies, so we just finished talking to Brandon. Pics to follow shortly!

9:46 AM:
Also, PensTV and I already caught up with Dan MacKinnon, Penguins director of player of personnel, and Jay Heinbuck, Penguins director of amateur scouting. They had some great stuff to say about what the event means to the Pens. We'll get it up for you in a bit.

9:44 AM:
Man, are these bike tests intense. This is the dialogue being screamed at the players as they reach their aerobic max (I'm intimidated and I'm sitting a good 200 feet away):

"Go! Go! Go! Push! Push! Push! Work hard! Keep working! Go! Go! Go! Come on! Faster!!!"

9:34 AM:
So a big ruckus just broke out here at the Combine as someone started yelling at the top of their lungs. I jumped up in a slight panic before realizing that the reason for the commotion and all of the "GO! GO! GO!" and "KEEP MOOOOVING!" was because the first Wingate Ergometer Test was underway.

The Wingate Ergometer Test is infamous for how tough it is in such a short amount of time. It's a 30-second anaerobic bike measurement – here's how the exercise physiologists administering the test described it to (updated 7:34 p.m.):

"It's a 30-second test and you go all out. We motor with 9 percent of the player's body weight and we want to see how much power they can generate, how well they can sustain it over 30 seconds. Scouts will use it to see their motivation, how well they're able to push themselves. They will also look to see what kind of power they can generate. In other words, how efficiently they're going to be in a 30-second shift, which is average."

The first prospect to do it – Scott Mayfield of the Youngstown Phantoms (USHL) – just finished and seemed relatively unscathed. Here's the proof:

Then there's also the VO2 Max Test, which is just as difficult -- and just as infamous. It's designed to test the aerobic endurance of a player's heart, lungs and muscles. So basically, the player breathes through a tube that's measuring their oxygen intake while they pedal until their body has had enough. It's not uncommon for someone who's just finished the test to throw up after.

9:30 AM:
Brandon Saad is set to be the first of the Pittsburgh-area prospects to go through the fitness testing. I'll try and get some pics of him when he goes.

9:15 AM:
Did I mention that we roadtripped here (in style, of course)? It took a little longer than it should have because I'm not exactly the best navigator in the world, but hey, we made it eventually.

Check out the awesome Pens vehicle we took (yes, we got a lot of fellow drivers doing double-takes on the way):

9:00 AM:
Hello everyone and welcome to our first Penguins Report since the team's Get Away Day back in April! It's been a while since I personally authored one of these (okay, 39 days to be exact...I may or may not have counted).

Both PensTV and I are reporting to you directly from the 2011 NHL Scouting Combine at the Toronto Congress Centre (click here to get versed on what exactly the Combine is and why it's important). We're ready to provide full coverage of the event for over the next two days.

Today, however, is the most significant because all four Pittsburgh-area prospects that have been invited to the Combine – Brandon Saad (Gibsonia), John Gibson (Whitehall), J.T. Miller (Corapolis/E. Palestine, OH) and Vince Trocheck (Upper St. Clair) – will be doing their fitness tests today after three grueling days of interviews with NHL teams.

They'll all be hopping on a plane back to Pennsylvania later tonight, but don't worry – will catch the hometown boys before they go.
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