NHL Combine: 5 head-scratching performances

After leading the OHL in points per game, Mitch Marner has just one through two games of the opening round. (Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

The NHL combine always produces some anomalous performances, ones that have you scratching your head after.

Sam Bennett’s failure to do a pull-up last year is only the one with the highest profile in recent years. If you work your way around the results lists you always see a few things that don’t add up. Not that any of it scotches a prospect’s chances—certainly Bennett looked like a future star when he parachuted into the Flames’ playoff run this spring. Still, it’s something you highlight.

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In no particular order here:

Mitch Marner: The prolific London center ranks No. 3 on some scouts’ lists but he was at the dead bottom of one list coming out of the combine—right-hand grip strength.

In fact, it wasn’t just that he was No. 117, but a matter of degree. He managed only 90 pounds of pressure, while the next weakest was 100, a mark posted by four other players, Charlottetown’s Daniel Sprong among them. To put this into better context, consider that the average reading was fractionally over 130 pounds this year and that Jack Eichel led the field with 176 pounds, almost twice the pressure Marner managed to squeeze out.

This wasn’t a case of a disparity between strong hand and weak hand either. Marner also managed 90 pounds from the left side—four from the bottom of the field. You might think all this is in line with the lithe Marner’s physique—5-foot-11 and a mere 160 pounds. But he managed 10 reps on the weight-adjusted bench press (the average this year was 9.5).

Even more impressively, he did 11 pull-ups, well above the average of 7.5. OK, so his hands are better made for playing the piano than for laying bricks, but it also suggests that he might have a low ceiling as far as development of a shot.

Maybe grip strength won’t be a factor if you project him as a playmaking center, but perhaps it might be a consideration if you’re looking to move him to the wing where he’ll have to fire away from a longer range.

Rasmus Andersson: The Swedish-born Barrie blueliner might project as a late-second or third-round pick but it didn’t look like he had done much gym work in advance of the combine. He was dead last in the Wingate mean-power test and second-last overall in the VO2 testing, ahead of only Charlottetown’s Kameron Kielly.

Now, Andersson did post an above average number in the anaerobic peak-power test, but still, organizations might be wondering about his basic athletic ability.

Watch: Gare Joyce's raw video of Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel at NHL Combine

David Kase and Filip Chlapik: OK, let’s just say that the two Czech prospects have low centers of gravity, even when they’re trying to elevate.

Kase, a right winger with Chomutov, ranked 11th among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting, managed only a 13-inch vertical jump. His standing long jump was no better: second last in the field, almost 20 inches less than the average. And not that he’s trying to power up a squat body—he measured 5-foot-9.5 and 159 pounds. There’s nothing on file about an injury apparently, so you have to wonder if Kase’s lack of explosive lower-body strength will limit the development of his skating.

Chlapik, the Charlottetown center ranked No. 18 among North American skaters, edged out Kase by an inch in the vertical and was down in the bottom 10 per cent in the standing long jump. Granted, he’s a thick-set kid, just under 200 pounds, but still it looks like a long shot that he’s ever going to be a threat on the basis of instant acceleration.

(Not to pile on Kase but he managed only two reps in the bench, ahead of only fellow Czech Daniel Vlader and Slovak Matej Tomek who failed to register a rep. Kase also registered 18 percent body fat, ahead of only three in the field, and would surely have been a podium threat in the combine anti-decathlon.)

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Ryan Pilon: OK, granted, the Brandon defenceman didn’t have a lot of prep time after the Wheat Kings’ elimination in the WHL final, but still, teams would like to see a little more athleticism that Pilon put on display.

Ranked No. 24 among North American skaters by Central Scouting, Pilon was dead last in body fat measurement and dead last in the cumulative measure in the agility tests. In fact, if you looked across the board you were almost guaranteed to find him in the bottom 10 percent, even in power rather than endurance tests.

Again, I suspect that Pilon was giving it the old college try and had to be more banged up than he owned up to. And I also suspect that one bad result snowballed into another—knowing he was having a bad day at the showcase could not have been fun.

A big asterisk attached to this one.