Scouting Combine Unites Prospects, Potential Suitors
Portland Winterhawks defenseman Seth Jones, No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American skaters for the 2013 NHL Draft, said there's no reason to fret about the NHL Scouting Combine, which will be held this week in Toronto.
Jones will join 100 other draft-eligible hopefuls from North American and Europe from May 27 to June 1, when they'll go through interviews, fitness testing and medical examinations in the presence of NHL scouts and general managers.
"It's just a matter of showing the teams what you can do," Jones told NHL.com. "I don't think anyone should go in nervous … I'm certainly not looking at it that way. It should be a fun experience."
NHL Central Scouting is anticipating 86 North American players, including the top seven goalies in its final ranking, and the top 15 European prospects, including the No. 1-ranked goalie, to participate. The fitness testing portion of the Combine, headed by Dr. Norman Gledhill and his staff at York University in Toronto, will be held May 31 and June 1 at Toronto International Centre.
What the players have to keep in mind is that this will be their initial contact with many NHL teams, so they have the chance to make that good initial impression," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr told NHL.com. "Some kids aren't that comfortable when they're in an interview environment, so it's important they be prepared to talk about themselves, which is something they might not be used to doing. The Combine gives the NHL teams a chance to get to know the player away from the rink."
The Scouting Combine will allow all 30 NHL clubs to interview as many prospects as they wish over a four-day period while reviewing medical reports by the independent doctors from York University. The players also will be put through a series of endurance tests that have become a staple of the Combine.
Among the players invited are top forward prospects Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion Halifax Mooseheads, Sean Monahan of the Ottawa 67's of the Ontario Hockey League, and Hunter Shinkaruk of the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League.
Top defenseman joining Jones are Darnell Nurse of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL, Mirco Mueller of the Everett Silvertips of the WHL, and Ian McCoshen of the Waterloo Black Hawks of the United States Hockey League.
Of the 101 players attending the Combine, 58 will be representing the Canadian Hockey League -- more than 57 percent of all North American invites. That list includes 21 from the QMJHL, 20 from the WHL and 17 from the OHL.
Additionally, 10 players who spent this season in the United States Hockey League, including seven from the U.S. National Team Development Program, were invited. There will be five players in attendance who spent the 2012-13 season playing with their high school team, including defenseman Thomas Vannelli of Minnetonka (Minn.) and center Connor Hurley of Edina (Minn.).
The top European-based prospects invited include center Aleksander Barkov of Tappara in Finland, right wing Valeri Nichushkin of Chelyabinsk in Russia, center Elias Lindholm of Brynas in Sweden, and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen of TPS in Finland.
The only European goalie in attendance will be 5-foot-10.25, 178-pound Juuse Saros of HPK in Finland. Saros excelled for the bronze medal-winning Finns at the 2013 IIHF World Under-18 Championship in Sochi, Russia, in April, finishing 5-2 with a 1.86 goals-against average, .946 save percentage and one shutout in seven games.
"Some of these Europeans will be exposed to being in North America for the very first time, and they're here for a week because of how long it takes them to get over here," Central Scouting's David Gregory told NHL.com. "The Combine is going to be important for them."
Barkov had four assists and a plus-3 rating in five postseason games in Finland before sustaining a shoulder injury that knocked him out for the remainder of the playoffs. Scouts and GMs will no doubt be curious how that shoulder has healed.
However, Barkov will skip the fitness testing portion of the Combine, as will Nurse, who underwent surgery to repair an undisclosed injury following the end of Sault Ste. Marie's season.
"There are certain parts of each team's staff who have watched these kids and have been [in Europe], but the top guy, the general manager, has not had that time to do it," Gregory said. "The interview and how well they perform in the testing is going to be highly scrutinized if they're considering this type of player with their pick."
There are 13 individual tests designed to evaluate the strength and fitness of the draft hopefuls, put together by Gledhill, a professor of kinesiology at York University. This will be the 20th year Gledhill has tested the athletes at the Combine. Each test is held at a separate station under the watchful eyes of several dozen of Gledhill's employees and graduate students from the York University Human Performance Lab.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL
Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer