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2019 NHL Scouting Combine Wrap Up

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Weekend wrap-up of prospect fitness testing and media

IT’S NOT EVEN SEVEN AM YET
Jeff Chapman

The Scouting Combine is a different kind of event. Prospects meet with a slew of NHL clubs during the week. On Saturday, prospects perform a variety of fitness tests, then give an interview to interested media afterwards. I love the scouting combine because it’s a curiosity. How much influence does a player being able to jump ten feet play into a player’s draft rank? How many pull ups? Is anyone going to vomit while on the stationary bikes?

The fitness portion of the NHL Scouting Combine starts at an excruciatingly early 7:30 AM Eastern, which really is too early to be doing anything on a weekend. Early start be damned, the fitness test began with Swedish defenceman Tobias Bjornfot at 7:30 on the dot.

Top prospect Kappo Kakko did not make the trip to Buffalo due to the World Juniors ending just days ago. Projected number one selection Jack Hughes made the trip, we learned that he was not going to test about five minutes before his scheduled testing time. Is it going to change their draft order? Doubtful.

So what did we learn about the rest of the prospects?

THINGS I SAW

  • I got to the combine early, and I perched myself between the pull up bar and the stationary bikes. Sure, the long jump and the high jump are lots of fun, but you don’t get nearly as much fun out of that compared to a hulking man yelling to pedal harder at a bunch of prospects. Much to our chagrin, the man who does all the barking never did surface.
  • Goaltender Spencer Knight is projected to be the first goaltender selected in the 2019-20 NHL draft, and he was the first prospect that turned my head early in the day. He had a 117” standing long jump and a two foot standing high jump.
  • There’s a man at the pull-up bar with an iPad showing prospects how to do a pull-up. I wonder how many prospects have never attempted a pull-up before.
  • Peyton Krebs was our mock-draft selection at 8th overall, and he remains an interesting selection should the opportunity arise. He managed 15 pull ups at the bar, 16 was the daily max held by four prospects.
  • Samuel Bolduc had a fine day at the combine. A speedy defenceman from the Q, Bolduc did well in agility and at the bench press. Players were asked to lift 50% of their body weight at the press. Bolduc will probably get some looks early on in the third round.
  • Defenceman Jayden Strudle was probably the biggest benefactor of the scouting combine. Studle is ranked 48th among North American skaters, which probably puts him somewhere in the third or fourth round. He finished first in five of the day’s tests, including the bench press, standing long jump and the hand grips. How much this will help his draft stock remains to be seen, but good on him for doing well.
  • There were some wacky questions asked this year in the media scrum. Gone are the seemingly innocent days of hot dogs and sandwiches. The game has changed. I know that this question was asked to London’s Connor McMichael during his media availability.

How do you answer this? What is the right answer?

Is that it? Sort of. Unless one of these players just absolutely mails it in during the fitness testing, I’m not sure how much the needle moves one way or another. We know about Dylan Cozens and his propensity to put the puck in the net. Does him doing a bunch of pull ups change anything?

FIRST ROUND OILERS

Unless no one takes Bowen Byram (Vancouver, WHL), Edmonton’s chances of picking up a defenceman at the 8th pick seem awfully slim. Even though it’s a formality that Jack Hughes and Kappo Kakko go 1-2, the list of forwards remaining around the top ten greatly outweigh the defencemen.

Defencemen in italics

  • Jack Hughes
  • Kappo Kakko
  • Alex Turcotte
  • Bowen Byram
  • Kirby Dach
  • Trevor Zegras
  • Dylan Cozens
  • Matthew Boldy
  • Peyton Krebs
  • Cole Caufield
  • Vasili Podkolzin
  • Cam York
  • Victor Soderstrom

Your mileage may vary, but here we have eight forwards after 1-2 who could go in the top ten. The first defenceman after Byram is a borderline top ten pick, and I just don’t see the Oilers selecting anyone who isn’t projecting to be a scorer at eighth overall.

Who’s going to be available? At least a handful of these players. Peyton Krebs is probably there. Cole Caufield and Matthew Boldy are less likely. Vasili Poldkolzin is as likely as Krebs, though I believe Edmonton’s would likely go Krebs before Poldkolzin. Cam York or Victor Soderstrom are the likely the first defencemen who are selected after Byram comes off the board, it wouldn’t surprise me too much if neither of York or Soderstrom weren’t drafted until 11th overall.

The Oilers are likely to pick a forward with their first overall pick this year. Which one will it be?