2019 NHL Combine: Finding the Perfect Match
The 2019 NHL Scouting Combine was hosted in Buffalo, NY, offering NHL teams and reporters insights into the lives of the top draft-eligible players. The first group of physical testing began at 7:30 a.m. on the final day, with the last group begining at 2:30 p.m. After the tests were done, each player was made available to the media for interviews, some of which lasted as long as half an hour. They were mostly asked about their own development, international experiences, and plans for the summer. Some talked about interviews with teams earlier in the week, including how many they had and specific questions asked. It seemed that many players had their own thoughts on which round they’ll go in and a rough idea of where in that round.
Men’s International Stage Puts Spotlight on Draft-Eligibles
Of all the guys interviewed throughout the week, three had the opportunity to showcase their skills against men in the World Championships last month. Jack Hughes, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound centreman put up three assists in seven games, while Kaapo Kakko, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound centre/right-winger scored six goals and an assist in 10 games, beating out Canada and winning gold. Although these two were absent from the combine’s physical testing, Hughes’ and Kakko’s impressive seasons will se them drafted in the top two selections this year.
The Prospect Who Forgot His Suit
Moritz Seider, the third draft-eligible to play at the world championships has been receiving raving reviews all season and more since his appearance in the men’s tournament. The 6-foot-4, 207-pound German-born defenceman impressed scouts by scoring twice in five games, giving noticeable rise to his draft stock this June.
He impressed even further by ranking second for duration in the aerobic fitness VO2max test (15:24) and fourth for VO2 max (59.0), as well as third for wingspan (79.50 inches). Obviously larger and stronger than your average 18-year-old, it’s no wonder why he was selected to play on Germany’s roster.
During his post-testing media interview, he entertained reporters as a humorous and well-spirited young man. He told the story of not packing a suit for the combine, and as he put it, will be remembered as the guy wearing sneakers to all his interviews.
The Guy Who Was Injured
It’s always interesting to see brothers make it into the NHL because they often have a lot in common. Just look at the Tkachuk brothers for instance; Matthew was drafted at No. 6 (2016), and Brady at No. 4 (2018). Last year, Quinn Hughes was drafted at No. 7 and this year, Jack is projected to go first overall. This brings us to Ryan Suzuki, the younger brother of Nick Suzuki, who was drafted at No. 13 two years ago.
Ryan has been playing for the OHL’s Barrie Colts over the last two seasons now, and unfortunately, he was still recovering from a lower-body injury during the combine and only participated in the upper-body tests. Of course, he’s often asked about the differences between him and his older brother. Back at the 2017 Combine, Nick did participate in the aerobic fitness test and ranked ninth overall in both duration (15:15) and VO2 max (59.0) – nearly identical to Seider’s results. Ryan says there are some small stylistic differences in the way they play hoc
key – but also pointed out that he is the faster skater. Clearly competitive amongst each other, HockeyProspect.com reporter, Leah Dyck, jokingly asked who could beat up whom. Ryan says he has the upper hand but it’s only because Nick allows it.
Now that the scouting combine is over and done with, NHL teams are delving deep into every crack and crevasse of their notes, and scouting reports accumulated over the season. Determining where their needs are greatest and figuring out who’ll meet these needs is no easy job. The combine is just one more tool used to gauge a player’s physical fitness level and help teams more accurately determine their developmental trajectory. But a player’s physicality isn’t the only requisite for teams. They want players with character, players they can trust and trust to work hard. They want to draft someone who’ll fit in their roster.
By Leah Dyck for HockeyProspect.com