Prospect Takeaways from the NHL Combine

by Brayden Olafson on June 3, 2019

 

This weekend I came across a tweet from a fellow DobberProspects writer that got me thinking a little more about the NHL Prospect Combine… and it’s purpose.

 

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I’m with ya Joel.

What seems to stand out the most from the combine is the player personalities. For many of the prospects, this is the first time being in front of an NHL-sized media scrum and unfortunately, I find some of the sound bites get analyzed deeper by the media than the team’s they’re auditioning for. Nonetheless, the event is an excellent opportunity for fans to get to know some of the players of tomorrow.

 

The top-ranked goaltender heading into the draft, the USNDP’s Spencer Knight was apparently stumped by one team’s question…

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One of the greatest aspects of the combine is its ability to place most of the top-ranked prospects in the same room together. While that might seem trivial and insignificant, it’s important to remember the dirty truth about scouting athletes in-game – it’s subjective. That is to say that when scouting any particular player through the course of one or even ten games, there are an unlimited amount of factors that can lead to inaccuracies or more question marks. Putting athletes in a controlled environment where they can be compared directly to their peers actually has a fair amount of value for scouts who are finalizing their draft lists.

 

In most occasions, information gathered at the combine can be layered on top of information that’s been gathered throughout the year. One such piece of information collected at the event was in regards to the health of forward Nolan Foote. The Kelowna Rockets product fractured his left wrist in the first week of the WHL season but continued to play. Foote had been under the impression that the break was actually just a sprain until follow-up x-rays revealed that the break had healed itself in the weeks following. With a 36-goal, 63-point season already behind him, the 37th ranked North American skater could find himself jumping a few spots in the draft due to the revelation.

 

As trends go, some of the most reliable tests to be won by future successful NHL players are the Wingate peak power output test and the VO2max ml/kg/min. Past winners of these “tests” include Shea Theodore, William Nylander, Alex Nylander, Tomas Hertl and Carter Hart. This year, the winner’s of those respective tests were Nils Hoglander and Egor Afansasygev, and I would certainly bet on Holgander continuing the trend. The 18-year-old Swede stands a stout 5-9 and 188 lb, but certainly fits the mold of a player capable of overcoming his size, as he’s already shown playing in Sweden’s top league this year.

 

Some of the top performers at the combine and those who have likely raised their draft stock include the following:

The aforementioned goaltender, Spencer Knight who finished in the top-15 of each of the physical tests. Knight’s even-keel personality also shone in his media availability, giving a glimpse of what teams likely saw in their own interviews. Don’t be surprised to see a team use their lone first-round pick to select what could become a game-breaking netminder.

 

As a statement to small hockey players everywhere, Cole Caufield excelled in just about every corner of the physical testing. Boasting a 5-7, 163 lb frame, Caufield not only plays big but scores big. The projected top-10 pick will almost certainly outplay his draft position at some point in his career.

 

One of the more underappreciated USNDP players in John Beecher was giving an opportunity to shine at the combine. I’m not a huge fan of Beecher’s pace of play in the program, but he’s got an excellent toolbox that seems to be underutilized.

 

With the scouting season nearly in the books, it’s exciting to know that we’ll have a better idea of each of these players’ futures within a month’s time. 

 

NHL Draft Countdown: 18 Days