Over the course of a week's stay in downtown Buffalo, Saturday was the day that lingered on the minds of many of hockey's top prospects at the NHL Scouting Combine. It was the day they'd have to run, jump and pedal their way to the finish line.
Once it was all over and testing was finally behind them, relief was the overwhelming sentiment at HARBORCENTER.
"In the past month you've been looking forward to it but a little bit nervous," said forward Logan Brown, ranked No. 7 amongst North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting Services. "Now that it's out of the way you can kind of look forward to the Draft."
Several of the players who were in town for the Combine this week will return to hear their name called during the NHL Draft at First Niagara Center on June 24 and 25. Who it is that selects them will at least be partially predicated on the interviews that have been taking place throughout this week.
Some players only spoke to a handful of teams. Others, like forward Tage Thompson from the University of Connecticut, spoke to all 30.
"Some guys just want to get to know you, others want to really dig in and see what makes you tick," Thompson said. "But for the most part, it's pretty much the same questions … I didn’t get any really tough questions, I think I was lucky."
Here are some observations from testing day at the Combine …
BEST DRAFT INTERVIEW QUESTION
Most prospects agreed with Thompson that teams' line of questioning remained within the realm of normalcy, but the award for the most outside-the-box question goes to Russian-born center German Rubtsov, who said through a translator that he was asked how many times he shaves per week.
Rubtsov, for the record, was clean shaven for his testing on Saturday.
NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr reiterated on Friday that the testing at the Combine isn't meant to be looked at as a competition. Rather, it serves as supplemental insight for a team to evaluate players' conditioning as well as to get a feel for their potential for growth.
With that being said, there are standouts each year. Last year, eventual Sabres draftees Jack Eichel and Brendan Guhle were two of them with both players placing in the top 10 in seven different tests.
This year, Jakob Chychrun, ranked as the top North American defenseman by NHL CSS, placed in the top 10 on four tests. Fellow defenseman Logan Stanley finished atop the Wingate bike test with a time of 12:30 while goalie Carter Hart topped the VO2max. Full results can be found here.
Forward Jesse Puljujarvi was exempt from testing while defenseman Olli Juolevi also did not participate. Puljujarvi is ranked by CSS as the No. 3 European skater, while Juolevi is ranked No. 5 amongst North American skaters.
Forward Patrik Laine, the No. 2 ranked European skater according to CSS and widely projected to be selected second overall by the Winnipeg Jets, was restricted to upper-body tests.
Among the players who confirmed speaking with the Sabres were defensive prospects Mikhail Sergachev, Olli Juolevi, Jakob Chychrun, Charlie McAvoy, Jake Bean and Griffin Luce, grandson of former Sabre Don Luce.
Sergachev, for one, said he was met by quite the contingent from Buffalo.
"I'd like to play here," he said. "It was my first interview at the Combine and there were about 20 guys in the room. That was kind of tough. I was like, 'Oh my God, what's going on here?' It was good."
McAvoy, meanwhile, had the advantage of receiving advice from Eichel in the days leading up to Combine. The two played together previously with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program and McAvoy followed in Eichel's footsteps as a freshman at Boston University last season.
"He sent me best wishes, he told me to do my best, to work as hard as I can," McAvoy said. "He kind of gave me a heads up on Buffalo, he said [General Manager Tim Murray] can be an intimidating guy but just be yourself and it'll all work out for the best."