Quite a spectacle at the International Centre in Mississauga Friday and Saturday. One hundred of the top draft eligible players were put through the paces in front of several watchful eyes.
Having never attended the NHL Combine before, I was amazed to see just how many of my colleagues were in attendance. Not to mention the two TV network sets. It won’t be long until this thing takes on an NFL type atmosphere.
Although there was some talk about moving this year’s event, it is just too convenient not to be in Toronto, where accessibility is the key. The International Centre is minutes from the airport and several hotels. The venue is also laid out in a way that should the event require more space, it is readily available.
Credit NHL Central Scouting Director Dan Marr for continuing the legacy of EJ McGuire by growing this event.
Overall the experience is rather barbaric. There’s a row of seats set behind stanchions that form an “L” around the room. Scouts, GM’s, strength and coaches sit or stand no more than 15 feet away from these kids who are going through a series of tests, some of which are done at breathtaking pace. Testing staff are constantly yelling encouragement or pushing kids through the each test. All the while there’s the subtle beats being played over the venue’s loudspeaker system.
I found it fascinating to listen to various teams talk about their methods of interviewing players. Some just ask questions, some use psychological tests, others try to throw the kids a curve ball, while others simply just want to talk hockey.
The most often asked questions had to be about what teammates would a player bring with them in a critical situation, or what player is the toughest to play against.
Most teams have a really good idea of what a player is like going into the interview process. Along with watching a player on multiple occasions, there’s a lot of background work that goes into player evaluation.
Teams will evaluate players based on body-type. If a smallish players looks as if he’s filled-out, then it’s unlikely he will grow further. If a player is skinny, but has a good frame, then likely he’ll fill-out as he continues to grow.
In talking to several NHL team staffers, it has become increasingly harder to separate the good eggs from the bad eggs in the draft. With so many more kids having been exposed to media, players are well-versed in answering questions, being honest yet not giving too much away. The general feeling is that kids were a lot less coached in this aspect than in years previous.
Also interesting to note how scouts are already feeling good about 2013. All are cautious to say they’d love to be picking near the top, however.
Here’s a list of list of players who impressed teams the most with their interviews:
Alex Galchenyuk, Matthew Dumba, Zemgus Girgensons, Malcolm Subban, Ryan Murray, Patrick Sieloff, Morgan Rielly, and Filip Forsberg.
Looking at some of the results, there were some recurring names that appeared regularly in the top 10 of several of the combine’s categories: Chris Calnan of Nobles High School, Tom Wilson of the Plymouth Whalers, Malcolm Subban of the Belleville Bulls, Matthew Deblouw of Muskegon (USHL), Brendan Gaunce of the Belleville Bulls, and Michael Matheson of Dubuque (USHL).
Teuvo Teravainen’s name came up over and over again. My original reports had him as an ultra-skilled player whose passion left a little something to be desired. He interviewed well and the skill set is undeniable. Fascinating to see where he may end up in the draft.
There’s a lot to be said about a young player knowing his role. Patrick Sieloff mentioned on more than one occasion that he’s a defensive defenceman who must hit, play against the opposition’s best and be good on the PK. Playing under Bob Boughner in Windsor should help that cause.
Former In-line teammates Tanner Richard and Dane Fox went through the combine together. Fox is always entertaining, especially with some of the tales he told about playing with the Rupert twins before he was dealt to Erie.
My three thoughts on this draft are:
1.) More than half of the first round will be defencemen.
2.) There’s much more cloudiness between who goes one through five than I had originally anticipated.
3.) There’s a group of very similar players that will go from around the 20th pick through the 40th pick that could go in any order.
Be sure to check back before the draft, as we’ll publish my mock first round. The general consensus is that after the first five picks, things will open up and there will be quite a few surprises.