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Potential draft picks face thorough tests

Friday, 29.05.2009 / 8:00 AM / News
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Potential draft picks face thorough tests
TORONTO -- While there are two teams still playing for the 2009 Stanley Cup, the first step on the road to the 2010 Cup and beyond started Tuesday at the NHL Draft Combine.

The event, which hosts 103 of the best draft-eligible players from North America and Europe, sees the players put through a vigorous round of physical, medical and psychological tests that could determine where they are chosen when the teams convene in Montreal on June 26-27.

"The Scouting Combine is designed to bring together in one spot, in an economical move, and Central Scouting has been charged with that mission … the League GMs say bring your top 100 rated players to one spot and then we'll get a crack at them," NHL Central Scouting Director E.J. McGuire told NHL.com.

According to McGuire, there's a three-pronged approach to the Combine.

"First, there are interviews," he said. "Bring them in and allow (teams) to get a fair crack, 20-25-minute slots, where they interview these kids to get a little more insight into their personalities."

To go along with the interview is a psychological evaluation that tests, according to McGuire, "neuropsychological and behavioral phenomena."

"Can you really tell who's going to be your best player in Game 7 by typing it into a computer?" McGuire asked. "Probably not, but it might help. We provide rudimentary data, and most teams' sport psychologist consultant can take this information and use it as starting at first base, rather than starting at square one and develop a psychological assessment of a player. It's not meant to be a secretive selection device; it's one more piece of a large mosaic."

Another piece of that mosaic is a routine medical evaluation, where the players are examined by independent doctors who then provide their data to teams.

"They write up any red flags," McGuire said. "The team scouts, if they see a red flag, will say to the agent or kid, does our team doctor have permission to contact your team doctor directly? Teams want to be wary of not drafting damaged goods."

Most prominent is the physical testing -- something that, surprisingly, does not include an on-ice component.

McGuire said there are a number of reasons for not putting the prospects on skates. First, for the top players, teams likely have seen them multiple times in person or on video already.
Also, there's the fact that some players, including many in U.S. colleges and high schools, haven't been on the ice since February -- compared with a player such as Dmitry Kulikov of the Drummondville Voltigeurs, Tyson Barrie of the Kelowna Rockets, Jordan Caron of the Rimouski Oceanic or Ryan Ellis of the Windsor Spitfires, who played in the Memorial Cup that just ended Sunday.

Instead, the players are put through their paces in a three-hour crucible which includes events as simple as the sit and reach, push-ups and sit-ups, right through a pair of high-tech stationary bike tests -- Wingate anaerobic measure and an aerobic-max VO2 test.