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Europeans get their turn on second day of NHL Combine

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TSN.ca Staff
5/30/2009 1:25:07 PM
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The atmosphere is not quite as tense as the largely European contingent rolled in for the second day of testing. 

Adding to yesterday's marquee names in attendance, Sharks GM Doug Wilson joins the fray today.

Group One appeared to be a generally fit group, though there seemed to be a lot of room for these 17-year-old bodies to mature.

Saskatoon defenceman Stefan Elliott (ranked #17 among North American skaters by Central Scouting) is in good shape; had a strong vertical leap and standing broad jump and appeared to perform well in the hexagon agility drill.

Goaltender Matthew Hackett, the top-ranked North American goaltender, has nice size, with a long and lean projectable frame.

The biggest name of Saturday's first group is that of London Knights centre Nazem Kadri (ranked #15), who measured 5-foot-11.  He didn't have a great showing on the vertical jump or the bench press; perhaps reflecting that he's not the most explosive athlete here, but let's not forget that on-ice production (of which Kadri has plenty) is going to count for a whole lot more come draft day.

The second group brought a return of Victor Hedman, this time as a spectator, watching his Swedish compatriots go through the paces, while Hedman mentioned that he was glad the combine torture was over for him.

Brandon winger Scott Glennie (ranked #7) had a solid vertical, though his upper body strength was questionable, though that could very well be a reflection of his missing time this season with a broken elbow.

Jacob Josefson (ranked #3 among European skaters) was in solid condition and really put forth a strong effort on the Wingate cycle test, not unlike countryman David Klingberg (ranked #7 among Europeans).

Kingston centre Ethan Werek (ranked #32), who came by the testing room on Day One, perhaps for a sneak peek at what fate would await him today, had good size and put forth a solid effort in all excercises.  All of the kids seem to work hard, wanting to show well, but Werek appeared to be one of the guys giving the proverbial 110%.

In Group Three, Carter Ashton (ranked #12) was a big kid, measuring in close to 6-foot-3.  He has the look of a possible power forward once his body fills out and he was relentless in his effort.

Saint John defenceman Simon Despres (ranked #8), like Werek, checked out the testing room on Friday.  He's big, measuring close to 6-foot-4, with plenty of room to add muscle on his frame.

Guelph centre Michael Latta (ranked #45) had a very solid build, stockier than most of the players here.  He worked really hard on his tests and let out a "whoo" or two -- livening up the room -- after finishing his Wingate test.

Perhaps the most intriguing group of the second day was Group Four, which included a couple of top Swedish prospects.  Defenceman Olivier Ekman-Larsson (#4 among European skaters) was really skinny, but has a projectable frame with lots of room to grow.  At the same time he only managed half a dozen bench presses, so he'll need to get stronger.

Tim Erixon (ranked #5 among Europeans) also looks the part of a pro defenceman, with good size and he had a decent showing.  

Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson (ranked #2 among Europeans) has all the pieces, coming in a little over 6-foot-1 with a solid build and had a decent workout; nothing earth-shattering, but nothing that would seem to be cause for alarm either.

Despite the elite Swedish prospects, the most interesting player in the group may have been Finn Toni Rajala (#11 among Europeans).  While virtually all of the prospects look young, Rajala looks like somebody's 12-year-old brother.

He might be 5-foot-8 or 5-foot-9 and, while he's listed at 163 pounds, it wouldn't be a surprise if that was overstated.  He mustered just four on the bench press (and even a couple of those may have been questionable), but keep in mind, he was just named the Best Forward at the Under-18 World Championships in North Dakota, after scoring 10 goals and 19 points in just six games.  No matter how small he is, he's got talent.

While a lot of players put in a great deal of effort, perhaps none was more conpicuous than goaltender Robin Lehner (top-ranked European goaltender), on the Wingate cycle test, grunting like an animal as he maxed out his effort, before nearly collapsing off the bike altogether when he finished.

The final group of the Combine was highlighted by Swedish defenceman David Rundblad (#6), who has good size, with much room to grow and, like so many others here this weekend, he'll need to get stronger before going to the next level.

To sum up this year's combine, there was not that one special workout warrior, so when draft day rolls around, do not expect the results from this year's combine to vault anyone up the board dramatically.

So, that's a wrap for another year at the NHL Scouting Combine.  It's exhausting enough just watching, so kudos and best of luck to the guys who put up with all the poking and prodding over the last few days.

Toni Rajala (Photo: Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
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