It’s not enough for scouts, coaches and general managers to just watch film of prospects. To get a more thorough picture of a draft prospect, the NHL invites 120 amateur players aged 17 to 18 to participate in the Scouting Combine.
This Scouting Combine is taking place at the HarborCenter in Buffalo, New York, which was one of the changes talked about in a previous post. The Combine runs this year from June 1 to 6 and incorporates a range of tests aimed at providing as complete a picture of an athlete as possible.
What’s interesting to think about is that all Colorado Avalanche players underwent this testing before the Avs eventually drafted them. Just so happens there are pictures — mostly of captain Gabriel Landeskog, of course, but Nathan MacKinnon makes an appearance.
Body Composition Tests
One of the most… invasive tests looks to be the body composition testing:
Nationally accredited high performance athlete testing officials take calipers and other measuring instruments to the prospects — not awkward at all, I’m sure. The technicians note standing height and wingspan to the nearest o.2 cm.
Unfortunately, there are no results from 2006, when 6-foot-4 prospect Erik Johnson went through the Scouting Combine. However, the wingspan is typically the same as a person’s height, so presumably Johnson’s is 76 inches, for what that’s worth. Weight is also calculated to the nearest 0.1 kg.
The skinfold bodyfat measurement is the seemingly awkward test. Technicians take skinfold calipers to measure the prospects at chest, triceps, abdomen, front thigh, subscapular (just below the shoulder blade) and suprailiac (just above the hipbone). These measurements are used to calculate the prospect’s body fat.
Maybe it’s not that awkward — Nathan MacKinnon reported his bodyfat was 9 percent last summer after working out, so presumably he underwent the calipers of his own volition. According to Top End Sports, MacKinnon was top five in that category his draft year.
Strength, Power and Endurance Tests
The most grueling tests are the ones that take athletes to fatigue, the VO2 Max and the Wingate. As reported earlier, these are on separate days, with the VO2 Max occurring the same day as the BodPod (the skinfold tests).
Grip strength is another test happening on June 5. Prospects hold onto a handgrip dynamometer with their arms at a right angle. They then squeeze with all their strength for five seconds. In his draft year, Landeskog was top 10, squeezing at 142 pounds with his left hand. (Landeskog also placed top 10 in push ups and bench press — the push up test is not conducted anymore.)
On June 6, the prospects are undergoing nine tests, and these are open to the media. In addition to the Wingate and the height and wingspan measurements, the athletes are participating in the standing long jump and jump station. Both test explosive leg power.
Prospects are also undergoing pro agility tests and the Y-balance test station. The pro agility test measures body control and change of direction:
The Y-balance station measures agility as well in the form of how quickly and accurately the prospects can jump from a circle to different spots designated by a Y.
Psychological Testing and Interviewing
There are no published results for either of these procedures, of course. In fact, a lot of the psychological testing is administered prior to the Scouting Combine. However, a neuro-cognitive test gets administered directly after the two fatigue tests, the VO2 and the Wingate.
There are two psychological tests. One aims to gauge a prospect’s personality and coachability. According to Top End Sports, a question for coachability is whether the prospect would interrupt the coach if he was wrong. (I wonder what Colorado Avalanche players would have responded to “If you end up with a Hall of Famer as a coach, do you interrupt him if he’s wrong?”)
Officials also perform a mental efficiency test for spatial awareness, decision speed and accuracy, rate of mental fatigue and concentration.
Random Semyon Varlamov prospect photo (while wondering if the psychological testing for goalies is different, all things considered):
Prospects must be medically cleared by the NHL Combine medical staff before participating in any of the physical testing. Every year there are prospects who are still recovering from injuries and so cannot be tested. They also have the right to refuse testing, but NHL.com reports that this is a rate occurrence.
Scouts, general managers and coaches get the opportunity to interview prospects in suites at the First Niagara Center from June 1 to 5. Naturally, there’s no news on who, exactly, GM Joe Sakic and head coach Patrick Roy are interviewing. However, there have been reports that the Avs are interested in forwards Pavel Zacha and Timo Meier. If you’d like to find out why: