TORONTO -- The first day of fitness testing at the NHL Scouting Combine at the Toronto Congress Centre saw scouts and general managers from all 30 teams checking out the prospects as they went through the circuit of exercises and measurements.
What each person was looking for, however, varied depending on who you asked. Some are interested in the physique of the players when they enter the room and take their shirts off to get measured for body fat.
"I'm more interested in the results and seeing where kids are (physically)," Calgary Flames Director of Scouting Todd Button said. "One of the things we can look at is their body type. Some kids are men at 18 and some kids have a lot of room for growth. For us, it's projecting kids and seeing how far a kid has to go developmentally."
"You're looking at body types," said St. Louis Blues Director of Amateur Scouting Bill Armstrong. "Explosive body types, thick body types. Maybe that kid might be stronger than you originally thought. You want to see how much time they put into their body -- that tells you a little about them. If a kid has really put a lot of time into the weight room you can assume he's got a good work ethic, he's dedicated to what he's doing."
For Colorado Avalanche Strength and Conditioning Coach Rob McLean, there's no more important thing than just watching a prospect walk around.
"I actually do a lot of postural evaluation," he said. "I like to see how they move. I'm looking for imbalances or things that might lead to injuries over the long haul of a career. Obviously I want to see whether it's something I can correct in the gym or something he'll have to deal with his whole career and pre-dispose him to a problem. More so than the actual testing results, I'm actually looking at body movement and body posture to see whether they have a strong set-up or not."
New York Rangers Director of Player Personnel Gordie Clark said he likes to follow the players he's most interested in drafting through most of the testing circuit.
"I'm really interested in a lot of the movement stuff," he said. "The jumps, the broad jump and the vertical. Body makeup -- are the shoulders wide enough to pack on some weight or does it look like a frame that's not going to add a whole lot more. Just little gut things like that."
He also depends a great deal on Reg Grant, the team's strength and conditioning coach, to explain the results to the scouting staff. Grant's the one who can explain who's got more leg strength: either 5-foot-6 Rocco Grimaldi or 6-foot-7 Jamieson Oleksiak.
"That formula that spits out what somebody's (leg) power is, I'm like, 'Are you sure? This formula can compare 5-foot-6 to 6-foot-7?' I just wait for him to tell me," Clark said.
Armstrong said the most important exercises to him are the ones that measure leg strength, like vertical leap and standing broad jump, as well as the bike tests.
"I think you always look for the leg power," he said. "Bench pressing in hockey doesn't correlate to too much. … When it comes to the leg stuff and the endurance stuff, that tells you about him as a hockey player. That's what you're looking at, those exercises. There are a few exercises here that look pretty good but don't really correlate to what we like."
The bike tests -- the Wingate Cycle Ergometer, which measures a player's power output during a 30-second burst, and the VO2 Max test, which measures a player's endurance -- are what Pittsburgh Penguins Director of Amateur Scouting Jay Heinbuck finds the most important.
"I'm interested in the bike events somewhat, see how they respond to that," he said. "Strength events, not so much -- the kids are 17 going on 18, and five years from now the guy that was the worst on the bench press might be one of the better guys when he finally gets it and his body matures. Not so much in the strength events, more in the aerobic and anaerobic events."
Beyond the numerical results from the bike tests, the scouts like to watch how hard the players push themselves on what are physically and emotionally demanding exams.
"To me, this is just a piece of the puzzle. Psych test, scouting players, watching them skating -- this is just another evaluation tool." -- Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney
"What they look like when they're on the bike, if they're willing to go the extra two revolutions versus stopping early -- that's one of the areas from the scouting standpoint where they wonder how you can measure the heart of a lion," Rich Hesketh, the Flames strength and conditioning coach, said. "And that's often a tough one for us to get. You can certainly teach athleticism in the game, but sometimes that work ethic is something we have to really hone in on."
"It's just interesting to see the work ethic and the stick-to-it-iveness they have on the VO2 max and bike events," said Heinbuck.
Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney said he likes to move to different stations around the circuit while watching different players. He said after all his years scouting players, he's not sure if there's one specific thing you can gain from an event like the Combine.
"To me, this is just a piece of the puzzle," he said. "Psych test, scouting players, watching them skating -- this is just another evaluation tool." Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK