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by Erin Pollina / Buffalo Sabres
John Tavares (Photo: Getty Images)
Prospects attending the NHL Combine know that they are going to be tested.

With multiple choice and No. 2 pencils, however, probably wasn’t what they had in mind.

  NHL Scouting Combine

But to further evaluate the athletes prior to the Entry Draft, the NHL and Central Scouting have decided to also administer a psychological exam at the event to complement the physical assessment.

Teaming up with EXACT Sports, a company “focused on understanding the major components of an athlete's success” the League is hoping to give teams a better look into the character of their potential prospects.

“We’ve talked a lot about it lately,” Buffalo Sabres Director of Amateur Scouting Kevin Divine said. “It’s kind of new so I think right now we are in the evaluation process with that. We won’t know how valuable it is for a few years when these prospects begin to prove its accuracy.”

Implemented in 2008, the test is designed to assess the “behavioral characteristics, mental aptitude, and technical skill” of the players.

Director of Central Scouting, E.J. McGuire believes it may also give an indication as to how long it may take a prospect to be emotionally ready to play in the NHL.

“For example, part of the evaluation is a reaction-time test that the athletes do prior to the Combine, in the quiet of their home,” McGuire said. “Then, immediately after they get off the aerobic capacity test [at the Combine], they take the very same thing. We are trying to simulate, and it might be a bit of a stretch, being on the bench toward the end of the game. We want to figure out how much drop off there is in psychological characteristics such as attention and focus under fatigued conditions, compared to the ideal conditions where they took the test for the first time.”

The results are aimed at helping teams identify players that will fit on their individual rosters.

“If we have a mature team with a lot of leaders, then maybe the scouting staff can take more of a gamble on a high-skilled player who is a little immature in comparison. They might have enough veteran players to bring him along, and can afford to do that,” McGuire said. “Or the converse; A kid who displays a lot of character, but might lack in other areas - maybe doesn’t have as hard of a slap shot as somebody else – can be more valuable depending on the team.”

McGuire cited Buffalo native Patrick Kane to prove his point.

The Chicago Blackhawks drafted the winger 1st overall in 2007 – opting for a high-skilled playmaker with the pick. McGuire believes Kane’s personality was directly complimented by that of Jonathan Toews, who Chicago drafted in 2006. Where Toews displays more leadership than Kane, now acting as captain of the Blackhawks, Kane may have an edge in talent. He hopes that other teams can find similar formulas when choosing a draft pick.

“It’s an area that we, Central Scouting, have been leaving up to the teams,” McGuire said of psychological evaluations. “We have evaluated players on the ice and leave the teams to delve deeper into their personalities if they so choose… we hope that this [test] will begin to satisfy that need.

“But there are no guarantees that this particular test fits the bill. This information is new and can be used by teams, or not used, at their discretion. Behind closed doors, the teams might say that Central Scouting is wrong and form their own opinions. These psychological evaluations are the same.”

Major League Lacrosse, Major League Soccer, United Soccer Leagues and USL Olympic Development Program are among the other organizations that have utilized EXACT’s method.

“We are probably four or five years out from making any concrete conclusions about the testing,” McGuire said. “The predictions they make won’t come true for two or three years.

“In the mean time, it will interesting to watch.”
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