Ottawa Senators strength and conditioning coach Chris Schwarz and his team were at the Scouting Combine in Buffalo over the weekend to help evalutate the 2017 NHL Draft class.
His role at the NHL Scouting Combine:
Myself and my team, Rob and Jeremy, what we're doing here is looking at the physical aspects of what these athletes can provide to our organization. I've been given specific players that I follow and make sure that we're looking at different parameters and they could be as simple as how well a player skates, can they produce enough power, what their potential for growth is or how well do they compete. We try to put all those factors into something that we can feasibly give back to the scouts and say 'this is our impression of this athlete'.
Specific things he looks for during the fitness testing:
To me, it's athleticism. We have really good strength coaches here but you need that basis of athleticism and I preach that. If a person moves well and they have that potential to move well those are the things that I look for. Years ago when it was a wrestling match on the ice you had to worry about bench press and chin ups and those types of things but now the game is about movement. We also watch to see how well they can be coached and if they speak well to the people that are testing them. Those are some of the intangibles that we're looking at.
On the fitness testing being his first viewing of most of the prospects:
To be honest with you, I know some of the bigger names but for all the players it's a clean slate. Whatever they show here is what my impression of them is. I don't have any pre-conceived notions of how good they are as a hockey player; I'm looking at them on the basis of what my "swimming lane" is and what I know well.
Changes he'd like to see to the testing in the future:
To me, I want to see if they can be coached and if they can process. There's not really anything right now where they have to make a decision. I want to see decision making and those types of things so we're trying to add more in that realm. There is also more sensor-based, wearable technology that will be even better as we go along too.
His impression of this year's Draft class:
I think they are all becoming really good hockey players. Some of them are a little less experienced than what we may have thought during the fitness testing and they could probably do a bit better. We're used to seeing big numbers for the vertical but I think that the game is evolving where it's not a "big man's" game. You don't see somebody that's 230 lbs. and looks like a chiseled man anymore, these guys are young athletes that are still growing but have that potential to develop.
On seeing more players training specifically for these drills at the Combine:
Anybody that is a strength and conditioning coach out there that has somebody coming to this event wants to make sure that their athletes feel comfortable and that they know what they're doing. Once they are done here, this kind of training for them will be pushed by the wayside and they'll go back to training specifically for the sport.
On weighing the results based on a player's physical maturity:
A lot of them have different maturity levels and some of them just finished playing two weeks ago at the Memorial Cup and never had any chance to train. Some of these things you have to take into consideration but if you go back to Erik Karlsson when he was here and weighed 154 lbs. we knew that he was a great hockey player, we knew that he was a good athlete but we never knew that he would grow into a 190+ lbs. man. There are some intangibles here that we can't know specifically.
On his role after the fitness testing is complete:
We take the results, break them down and go back and speak with Trent Mann and our scouts. We'll look back at data and see if our numbers compare to what they saw while scouting the player. We package that together and they'll have that available to them on Draft day to use as secondary information to help evaluate prospects if they need to.