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The next steps

Saturday, 02.06.2012 / 1:03 PM / News
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The next steps

TORONTO – For those who impressed the Habs at the NHL Scouting Combine, it’s on to Montreal to make a final lasting impression.

If anyone knows just how physically demanding the fitness testing at the NHL Scouting Combine can be it’s Canadiens strength and conditioning coach, Pierre Allard. On hand in Toronto, along with the rest of the Habs’ scouts, to observe the prospects as they’re put through the paces, Allard paid close attention to the results, well aware that a player’s performance at the combine is in reality far from the final word on their overall ability.

“It’s not an exact science and that’s what makes it hard sometimes. There are definitely certain tests like the Standing Long Jump that work as good ways to measure strength. But it’s important to make sure you’re looking at the big picture and analyzing the player on the whole,” admitted Allard, a member of the Habs coaching staff for the last two years.

Pierre Allard

“It’s more of a tool to help scouts make the right decision,” he added. “You can’t base everything on these tests, though, you also have to take other things into account.”

The overwhelming consensus among the players subjected to the battery of physical tests on Friday was that the exercise bike work that closed out each of their sessions was hands-down, the hardest part of the day. For that reason, every player was required to go though a brief recovery period before they were allowed to continue with their days.

It’s no secret that making the NHL necessitates a player being in top physical for, and for that reason, Allard explained, the toughest tests at the combine are the ones that scouts tend to put the most stock in when making their decision.

“One of the toughest tests we look at is the wingate, where a player has to ride the bike, giving their maximum for 30 seconds, with resistance,” explained Allard. “It’s extremely demanding on the body and it can be a pretty good indicator of an individual’s performance. After that comes the VO2, also on a bike.

“It makes for a very rough finish for the players,” he continued. “But to start the day, we measure things like height and weight before going on to the jumping tests which are a bit more explosive. The end, though, is all about endurance.”

With the most options they’ve had in years, heading into this year’s draft in Pittsburgh, the Canadiens’ stand to welcome more than one talented player into the family, who with any luck, will go on to create a major impact on the team’s future.

Among those available to the Habs when they make their third overall selection at the end of the month, a couple of top prospects have already caught Allard’s eye when it comes to physical conditioning.

“Filip Forsberg seemed to be in really good shape,” pointed out Allard of the draft’s top European prospect. “What always surprises me every year that I come to the combine is that the players always seem to arrive in better and better shape. It’s great to see them show up so well prepared. It’s like they’ve practiced the tests before getting here, as opposed a while ago when they didn’t really know that much about the tests we were doing.”

While the Scouting Combine may be wrapping up at the end of the weekend, a lot of evaluation still needs to be put in from the Canadiens’ side. With 20 days to go before announcing their decision in Pittsburgh, Allard will take the opportunity to hold his own scouting combine at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard in the coming weeks.

The camp will give prospects another chance to show what they can do on the ice, with the goal of helping to make the scouts’ decisions a little easier.

“In Montreal, we’ll be doing a test called Function Movement Screaning. It’s a test that allows us to measure the mobility of a player’s joints by seeing if they’re able to complete certain movements,” described Allard, of what awaits the prospects in Montreal later this June. “One of its uses is that it allows us to detect potential risks for injuries or existing injuries that we weren’t able to detect with some of the more surface tests. It all gives us more information that we can then put to use.”

“We’re also going to do our own strength testing to help see where players stand,” he concluded. “We already have the results for these tests for all the guys on our team right now, so it lets us do things like compare how a guy like Josh Gorges did with how the prospects do, which is always really interesting.”

Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.

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