Colorado Avalanche: 2017 NHL Combine Results Could Influence Draft

Nov 5, 2015; Buffalo, NY, USA; Fans enter the First Niagara Center before a game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 5, 2015; Buffalo, NY, USA; Fans enter the First Niagara Center before a game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports /

With the team’s focus on conditioning, the Colorado Avalanche could use the results of the 2017 NHL Combine to drive their choices at the Entry Draft.

The  Colorado Avalanche have the #4 selection in the 2017 NHL Draft, but as of right now, there’s no real front runner for who the team will pick. The team is moving toward youth and speed, but that describes most of the top prospects.

Last week, 104 players took part in the annual 2017 NHL Combine. The Combine gave teams a chance to interview any prospects they wanted. The last two days, the prospects went through a series of mental and physical tests.

Read more here:

Related Story: All About the NHL Combine

Now, one thing I’ve noticed is that the Avalanche have been putting more emphasis on “conditioning.” That’s not to say they were a bunch of out of shape slobs in previous years. However, last season defenseman Chris Bigras failed to make the roster because his conditioning wasn’t up to par at training camp.

Likewise, when defenseman Erik Johnson was returning to the lineup after his broken leg, the trainers spent a lot of time testing his conditioning — he was even hooked up to a heart monitor while skating.

So maybe the Colorado Avalanche will be looking at some of the physical tests the prospects took part in at the Combine.

Pro Agility Test

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This is a shuttle run test, meaning the prospects essentially run back and forth between lines. The shuttle run test assesses a prospect’s body control and ability to change direction.

For the pro agility left test, only one prospect the Avalanche might be considering for the #4 spot made the top 25 — Cody Glass. He was #20 on the list. Some second round prospects the Avs might be considering are Josh Norris (#1), Juuso Valimaki (#3) and Isaac Ratcliffe (#9).

Cody Glass made the top 25 for the pro agility right test, too (#24) as did fellow MHSer Ross’s beloved Nick Suzuki (#20). Norris was #1 again. For other second rounders, Ivan Lodnia came in at #8 and Pierre-Oliver Joseph at #9.

Related Story: Ranking the Top #4 Draft Prospects

 VO2 Max Bike Test

Prospects cycle at maximum effort while breathing into an analyzer. The test assesses their aerobic fitness. This one might be of especial interest to the Colorado Avalanche.

Dear Nick Suzuki (#9) made the top 25 list here, too. For second rounders, there’s Ratcliffe (#3) again, Juuso Valimaki (#13) and Jaret Anderson-Dolan (#23) as well as a couple of players we can dream will be available at #32 — Erik Brannstrom (#16) and Conor Timmins (#17). One of my favorite potential second rounders, Aleksi Heponiemi, made the #7 spot.

One of the results listed is for test duration in aerobic fitness. I’m not sure if this is directly related to the VO2 Max, but it came up with some interesting results.

My favorite potential fourth-overall, Gabriel Vilardi, came in at #11 (15:14). Ross’s favorite, Nick Suzuki, just beat him with 15:15, good for #10. My favorite second rounder, Nikita Popugaev was right behind Vilardi at #12 (15:02).

Here are some results related to potential second rounders:

#5: Juuso Valimaki (15:57)
#14: Jaret Anderson-Dolan (15:00)
#15: Kole Lind (15:00)
#20: Connor timmins (14:59)
#24: Ivan Lodnia (14:37)

Grip Strength

One of the strength tests prospects go through is for their grip. Both hands are tested.

For righties, my favorite second rounder, Nikita Popugaev, topped the pack, squeezing at 175 pounds. My dream second rounder, Nicolas Hague, came in at #24 (135 pounds). In between were a few more possible second rounders — #7 Urho Vaakainen (149 pounds), #11 Kole Lind (144), #13 Juuso Valimaki8 (142) and #18 Henri Jokiharju (136).

For lefties, Popugaev came in at #3 (160 pounds). Juuso Valimaki showed up at #15 (138), Henri Jokiharju at #17 (135), Kole Lind at #20 (133) and Nic Hague at #23 (132).

Standing Long Jump

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On the second day, prospects get their leg power assessed by jumping as far as possible from behind a line.

Here we see a (maybe) potential first rounder show up again — Timothy Liljegren at #8, 111.5 inches. Several potential second rounders made appearances, too:

#1: Josh Norris (118 inches)
#5: Isaac Ratcliffe (113.5)
#7: Henri Jokiharju (111.8)
#13: Pierre-Oliver Joseph (108.5)
#23: Juuso Valimaki (105.8)

Vertical Leap

For this assessment, the prospect stands on a force plate and jumps vertically. The best three jumps are used to average the score. The vertical leap assesses movement efficiency, physical performance and injury potential.

Here we have three potential fourth-overall picks plus Ross’s Nick Suzuki. Owen Tippett came in at #14 (21.19 inches). Timothy Liljegren was #17 (20.98) and Casey Mittelstadt was #20 (20.6). Suzuki was #25 with 20.42 inches.

Some potential second rounders showed up on the list:

#1: Josh Norris (26.19 inches)
# 8: Henri Jokiharju (22.84)
#12: Piere-Oliver Joseph (21.91)
#16: Juuso Valimaki (21.02)

Wingate Cycle Ergometer Test

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The prospect warms up then starts peddling until he’s reached his designated workload, 9% of his body mass. At that time, he’s pedaling at maximum capacity, which he maintains for 30 seconds. During that time, assessors record revolutions at five-second intervals and calculate a score based on the average.

The Wingate Cycle Ergometer test yields three different results, all related to anaerobic fitness — mean power output, peak power output and fatigue index.

More from Mile High Sticking

Timothy Liljegren was the only potential first rounder to make the top 25 for mean power output, coming in at #22. For potential second rounders, we have Joshua Norris (#2), Pierre-Oliver Joseph (#7), Aleksi Heponiemi (#10), Grant Mismash (#13), Juuso Valimaki (#15), Isaac Ratcliffe (#19) and Ivan Lodnia (#24).

For peak power output, Liljegren showed up again, making it to #11. Fellow first-round defenseman Miro Heiskanen ranked #24. Josh Norris returned to #1. Other potential second rounders include Valimaki (#4), Mismash (#5), Joseph( #19), Ratcliffe (#20) and Heponiemi (#21).

The third measure for the Wingate test is the fatigue index, which is basically endurance. It tests the rate at which a prospect’s power declines, meaning the rate at which he tires. This test at the Combine yielded some interesting results for me.

My favored fourth-overall, Gabriel Vilardi, came in at #2. Fellow potential fourth-overall candidates Casey Mittelstadt (#5) and Owen Tippett (#23) also ranked.

A few second rounders also turned up: Erik Brannstrom at #6, Jaret Anderseon-Dolan at #11, Kole Lind at #14 and Aleksi Heponiemi at #25.

Bench Press and Pull-Ups

A couple of the NHL Combine tests are straight up out of high school — the bench press and pull-up. These are both about upper body strength.

For the bench press, which is calculated as reps at 70-80% of the prospect’s body weight, only second rounders made a showing: #4, Josh Norris (15 reps); #17, Erik Brannstrom (13); and #19, Jaret Anderson-Dolan (12).

For pull-ups, assessors counted the number of consecutive pull-ups a prospect could complete. Again, there were no potential fourth overall prospects, but there were a few second rounders: #7, Josh Norris (11); #14, Aleksi Heponiemi (11); and #19, Erik Brannstrom (10).

Notable in this test, a potential fourth-overall failed to complete a single pull up and managed just one bench press — Casey Mittelstadt.

colorado avalanche
Casey Mittelstadt /

Poor kid — that’s like the worst nightmare from gym class. And that’s weird because you know all these prospects are used to being the best in their gym classes.

Note: I didn’t mark when Nico Hischier showed up on these results because he’s highly unlikely to fall to #4. Nolan Patrick didn’t show up at all.

Analyzing the Results

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Obviously teams like the Colorado Avalanche put at least some stock in the physical testing at the NHL Combine, or the league wouldn’t host it. I’m sure the teams take the information from the tests along with the psychological tests and team interviews into consideration along with their own scouting reports.

For potential first-rounders for the Avs, outliers Nick Suzuki and Timothy Liljegren made very good showings. Suzuki is pretty well-rounded, ranking for agility, aerobic fitness and movement efficiency. Liljegren shows well for movement efficiency, leg power and anaerobic fitness.

The prospect I think the Avs actually will choose, Owen Tippett, showed well for movement efficiency and anaerobic fitness. My favored prospect, Gabe Vilardi, ranked for both aerobic fitness and anaerobic fitness. If the team really is focused on conditioning, that might sway them.

When it comes to potential second rounders for the Colorado Avalanche, defenseman Juuso Valimaki stole the show. He placed in all the important tests. Defenseman  Aleksi Heponiemi also showed well for both anaerobic and aerobic fitness as well as agility. I could see the Avs ranking both these players a little higher on their scouting list based on these results.

A surprise to me is how well Pierre-Oliver Joseph showed. I didn’t really consider him too seriously for the #32 spot. However, he showed well for anaerobic fitness, movement efficiency, leg power and agility.

Next: Round 2 Predictions for the Avs

Based on these results, I’d say Ross has a point in making a case for Nick Suzuki, though I don’t like him for fourth-overall. I’m more sold than ever on Gabe Vilardi, though. That said, Timothy Liljegren’s showing at the 2017 NHL Combine is intriguing.