I won’t lie, in my opinion the draft combine leads to more drama than necessary when it comes to evaluating prospects. From worrying about pull-up counts to puking just for the “has heart” checkmark (thank you 31 Thoughts podcast for that gem) – these teenagers have a lot to deal with this weekend. But that doesn’t mean these fitness tests are useless. For scouts, this is one of the last chances to conduct interviews, see how players interact with one another as peers rather than on-ice competitors, and of course witness a few strength tests.
I wont pretend to be a fitness expert, but the changes made this year make sense to me. The bench press switched to measure power rather than repetition, and the windgate bike test switched to a start-and-stop-and-start format to replicate real hockey shifts. Let’s look at a few test results and see who’s been standing out.
Bench press power:
1. Rasmus Kupari
2. Ty Emerson
3. Jack Gorniak
4. Liam Foudy
5. Martin Fehervary
Notables: Andrei Svechnikov (7), Oliver Wahlstrom (8), Adam Boqvist (11), Evan Bouchard (16), Ryan Merkley (19), K’andre Miller (22), Jesperi Kotkaniemi (25)
Aerobic fitness (duration):
1. Xavier Bouchard
2. Curtis Douglas
3. Mattias Samuelsson
4. Kevin Bahl
5. Oskar Back
Notables: Rasmus Dahlin (6), Rasmus Kupari (11), Jesperi Katkaniemi (18), Brady Tkachuck (21), Ty Dellandrea (22)
Anaerobic fitness (average power)
1. Gabriel Fortier
2. Adam Boqvist
3. Kristian Reichel
4. Aex Khovanov
5. Jonathan Gruden
Notables: Noah Dobson (9), Andrei Svechnikov (12), Barrett Hayton (14), Oliver Wahlstrom (18), Ryan Merkley (20), Jesperi Kotkaniemi (21), Rasmus Kupari (24)
Anaerobic fitness (fatigue index)
1. Joseph Veleno
2. Tyler Madden
3. Jordan Harris
4. Kevin Bahl
5. Grigori Denisenko
Notables: Evan Bouchard (9), Brady Tkachuk (11), Ty Smith (12), Jared McIasaac (13), Joel Farabee (15), Dominik Bokk (20), Bode Wilde (21)
There are a few common names above – Svechnikov did well in most tests (unsurprising, he’s a beast), Kotkaniemi appeared in the top-25 in several drills, and Kupari scored well in many events as well.
These results are by no means an end-all reference when drafting players. But they also don’t hurt.
A few notes from last year’s 2017 NHL Combine:
– Average Power top performers included Morgan Frost (1), Elias Pettersson (3), and Kailer Yamamoto (4), all of whom ended up being better draft picks than most people anticipated at the time.
– Fatigue Index top performers included Gabe Vilardi (2), Martin Necas (3), Casey Mittelstadt (5), Filip Chytil (7) and Cale Makar (8) – a pretty star-studded lineup
– Aerobic fitness (duration) top performers included Shane Bowers (1) Kristian Vesalainen (2), Cal Foote (3), Michael Rasmussen (4), Filip Chytil (6) and Nick Suzuki (9) – again, several prospects who ended up being solid picks in the draft in their respective positions (although the jury is still out).
My point is that while these tests don’t tell us everything – it’s no coincidence that prospects who are committed to being physically ready for the NHL (and prove it at the combine) are often the ones that turn out to be good bets to continue developing post-draft. There’s surely a much larger piece to be done on that topic that I don’t have the free time for!
For reference on all of the above results – 104 players took part in the combine (a full list can be found here: https://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/complete-list-104-players-invited-nhl-combine/ )
For full results of tests I didn’t talk about above, check out the NHL’s site here: https://link.nhl.com/centralscouting/public/?sf89110722=1
Thank you for reading, and good luck to your favorite team heading in draft season!