Some thoughts from the NHL Scouting Combine on Friday:
When it comes to the NHL Scouting Combine, you always look at all the different results and the kids coming in.
Rocco Grimaldi is 5'6 and he's absolutely ripped. He has one of the lowest body fats and he's leading the way in so many areas as the tests unfold in terms of vertical leap, pushups everything else. The guy is obviously jacked. He's a tremendous athlete, which is probably not telling the scouts anything they don't know, because if you are that small, to be an elite world class athlete then you need to be.
On the flip side, Jonathan Huberdeau is one of the top guys in this draft, maybe a top three selection. He did two on the bench press, while other guys are knocking off eight, 10, 12, 15. People can spin the results whichever way they want because they look at Huberdeau and say 'Only two on the bench press? Great, he's one of the very best players in the draft and he's not really strong yet, imagine how good he's going to be when he gets some strength to him.'
Huberdeau, Zack Phillips and the players from the Saint John Sea Dogs just finished playing the other day in the Memorial Cup. That's a long season for a bunch of 18-year-old kids. A long, long year for Huberdeau started at the Under-18 last August in the Czech Republic. So absolutely he gets a break for that.
Taylor Hall came here last year after back-to-back Memorial Cups. Hall said he was banged up, battered, and bruised and he did none of the strength testing last year. Do you think the Edmonton Oilers backed off because he didn't do any of the testing? Of course not.
Some would go one step further and say that bench press is a nice thing that the football combine started and the NHL does it as well, but there are a lot of strength and conditioning coaches who would tell you that bench press isn't a great hockey measuring stick. There is hockey strength, which is mainly core and legs as opposed to a lineman in football where you are doing a lot of pushing, which is what the bench press is all about.
All it does is give benchmarks to the teams, to know where these guys are in terms of their overall physical maturity and their conditioning and where they can go from there.
For a lot of these players, all it means is that they haven't worked out at the pro style level. As long as the guys see that they have a good attitude and they are prepared to do it once they understand what's required of them, I don't think anybody comes out of this terribly disadvantaged because they didn't lift 150-pounds enough times or they can't vertical leap as well as some other people.
Number One Pick
I think the Oilers have a decision to make between Red Deer Rebels centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Adam Larsson, the big Swedish defenceman.
I think Jonathan Huberdeau, the way that he has played in the second half of the season, especially the QMJHL playoffs and the Memorial Cup, is at least going to come into the discussion.
Gabriel Landeskog would be the fourth guy that they will have discussions on, but for me I think Edmonton has a two-horse race for number one.
Off The Radar
Ryan Murphy of the Kitchener Rangers is an offensive defenceman who was a star for Team Canada at the Under-18 tournament in April. He's an interesting player.
Murphy is an all out, one-dimensional offensive defenceman. He's dynamic, but very small and not very physically mature, as he only did two in the bench press.
Some people are going to love the skill and the daring part of his game where he just wants to decide it every time, he wants to have the puck on his stick. Those teams are going to look at that and say that's the kind of guy they want, even though he's smaller and less physically mature than everybody else.
Conversely, teams will look at it and say that they are scared of a high risk defenceman who maybe can't play five-on-five minutes in the NHL, at least not to begin with, the same thing Ryan Ellis went through in his draft year.
Murphy will be in my top 10, but whether he gets taken there remains to be seen.