While the hockey community’s attention is focused on the NHL Conference Finals and the upcoming Memorial Cup showdown, many of the next generation of NHLers will be hitting their nose to the grind stone. The 2011 NHL Scouting Combine will commence on May 30th and run through June 4th in Toronto. This is an invite-only party for 102 North American and European draft eligible players. The event really serves as the last chance for players to showcase their skills to scouts and team officials prior to the entry draft in June. Although this competition will not take place at center ice, nor will it display sniping skills, skating stride, or the quick glove save. Oh no, this baby is all about psychological aptitude and a little bit of fitness fun.
The NHL Scouting Combine is the test of all tests. The stats are already in a player’s profile for the season. So these five days are packed with psychological assessments, medical evaluations, and the all important fitness tests.
Players arrive at the hotel and first begin the process with 15-20 minute interviews by team personnel. Various NHL clubs will interview players to try and understand a draftee’s brain to see if they can figure out what makes the player tick. Some questions asked will be thought of as standard interview questions, yet teams will also step outside the box and try to get players thoughts on those off the wall questions. If teams are going to draft and sign player’s pay checks in the future, they want to know all about an 18 year old’s psyche.
Today NHL teams want to also make sure the players bodies are as sound as their minds too. Thus, each player will go through a medical audit which includes an examination by doctors, photographs of players, completion of questionnaire, eye tests, and hand-eye coordination tasks.
Then the real fun begins as the intensity kicks up a notch on the weekend with the fitness test portion of the Combine. The notorious VO2 Max and dreaded “Wingate” are just a few of the physical challenges the players will go through to try to impress. The VO2 Max tests a players aerobic capacity on an exercise bike, specifically the maximum capacity of an individual’s body to transport and use oxygen during incremental exercise. This reflects the physical fitness of the individual. Then there is the “Wingate”, originally created by the Wingate Institute, one of the most physically demanding evaluations that often sees a “puke bucket” nearby. Although it is only 30 seconds in duration, it is an anaerobic test performed on a cycle ergometer, that is used to measure peak anaerobic power, as well as anaerobic capacity.
Yet those are only two of the fitness challenges the players are put through in front of scouts, doctors, fitness experts, and other team personnel. Below is the full list of tests and how each is measured as well.
Peak Power Output (watts/kg)
Mean Power Output (watts/kg)
Test Duration “Wingate”
Wing Span (in.)
Sum of 6 Skinfolds (mm)
Yuhasz% Body Fat
Standing Long Jump (in.)
4 Jump (Mat) Mode: Average Jump Height (in.)
Vertek Vertical Jump/Pause (in.)
Vertek Vertical Jump/No Pause (in.)
Vertek Leg Power Average (Lewis)/Pause (watts)
Vertek Leg Power Average (Lewis)/No Pause (watts)
Vertek Leg Power Peak (Sayers)/Pause (watts)
Vertek Leg Power Peak (Sayers)/No Pause (watts)
4 Jump (Mat) Mode: Ground Time (sec.)
4 Jump (Mat) Mode: Power Factor
Curl-Ups (max #)
Upper Body Power 4kg Ball (in.)
Right Hand Grip (lb.)
Left Hand Grip (lb.)
Bench Press (# of 150 lb. reps)
Bench Press (lb/lb. body weight)
Push-ups (max #)
Push Strength (lb/lb. body weight)
Pull Strength (lb.)
Pull Strength (lb/lb. body weight)
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that of the 102 invitees, 84 players played on North American soil this season while only 18 players dressed in European countries. Sweden leads the way with 10 skaters, Finland (5), Czech Republic, Russia, and the Swiss all represented with one player.
There will be 93 skaters (64 forwards & 29 defenseman) and just 9 goalies at the Combine. The Canadian Hockey League (CHL) again will show the highest numbers with a total of 61 players. The Ontario Hockey League (OHL) seems to be the league of choice with 28 players. The Western Hockey League (WHL) will have 19 players, while the “Q” a.k.a. Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) has been given 14 player invites.
Somewhat impressive this year is the representation by America’s only Tier 1 junior hockey league. The USHL (United States Hockey League) well known for supplying the talent pool into Division I college programs, will actually have 12 players. With eight of the players honing their skills this past season with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. Patrick Kane (1st overall-2007), James Van Reimsdyk (2nd overall-2007), Kevin Shattenkirk (14th overall-2007), Erik Johnson (1st overall-2006), Phil Kessel (5th overall-2006), Jack Johnson (3rd overall-2005), Ryan Suter (7th overall-2003), Zach Parise (17th overall-2003), Ryan Kesler (23rd overall-2003), Mike Komisarek (7th overall-2001), and RJ Umberger (16th overall-2001) are some established NHLers taken in the 1st round who developed at the USNTDP over the last 10 years.
The college ranks of the NCAA will send 5 players to Toronto for the Combine and another 6 players that are draft eligible for Minneapolis in June either prepped at private high schools in New England or in public/private schools of Minnesota.
The NHL Scouting Combine can be intimidating for the many prospects walking through the door. Many scouts certainly reveal the importance of the Combine, but also are quick to note that it is only one piece of the draft puzzle. Prospects are urged to enjoy the once in a lifetime opportunity to meet with the 30 teams and other highly talented players from around the world.
Since there is no on-ice portion to the Combine, it is imperative for the players to make a lasting impression with an overall solid effort and display of character. It’s no surprise many of the strength & conditioning coaches will be scrutinizing players physical abilities. Though the teams also would like to see a determined and dedicated compete level without the face masks or half shields on. It is an opportunity for both parties to get up close and personal to see if there is a match come draft day. Scouts may in fact know the hockey player, but who is this player as a person.
At this point, all the statistics from the ice and the final rankings from the CSS (Central Scouting Service) are already in the books. Sure many of the teams have a handful of names already in mind, but an exceptional performance in perseverance and personality by a player will no doubt raise one’s draft stock. Put on a good show with good body language and like the NHL markets during these NHL Playoffs, “History will be made”. Though in these times history will be made by some individuals at the Combine — the beginning of one’s NHL career.
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