Combine Blog: Top prospects under the microscope Staff

5/30/2008 5:29:02 PM

Over 100 of the top prospects available in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft are in Toronto to take part in the league's Combine. The players will take part in physical testing and most have a series of interviews set up with representatives from NHL clubs.

TSN is at the combine, too, and will file reports on the various activities throughout the day in this Combine Blog. The latest report is at the top.  Numbers in parentheses indicate a player's ranking according to the NHL Central Scouting Bureau.

5:01 - The final group of the day finished up quietly, and many of the scouts started filtering out.  The only player in the group that was in the CSB Top 30 was Cody Hodgson (9th). He had a pretty good workout and appeared in solid condition.

With everything done for the day, the two stars were clearly a couple of Americans, Colin Wilson and Zach Bogosian. Will this translate into a move up the draft board?  Maybe, but there is more to the combine than just the physical testing TSN witnessed, and there is certainly more work put into scouting than eyeballing a couple of kids doing the bench press on a given day. 

Tune in to TSN on June 20th at 7pm et to watch the draft live!

4:04 - Mikkel Boedker (ranked 11th by CSB) was missing from the seventh workout group.  He is in the Bahamas on a vacation with the rest of the Kitchener Rangers. They were apparently rewarded with the trip by the team owner after winning the OHL title and reaching the Memorial Cup final. Boedker was given the green light to miss the combine and will no doubt make himself available to scouts at a later date, if he didn't do so before leaving.

Zach Boychuk and Jordan Eberle had decent workouts, but Eberle (33rd) is going to have to work on his upper body strength. Boychuk (8th) displayed a very good vertical for a player of his smallish stature and he appeared to be in very good shape.

It's interesting to note that some goaltenders really ripped up the bench press and surprised with their size and strength Friday. Braden Holtby (ranked 4th among North American goaltenders) and Chet Pickard (2nd) really stood out from their peers. Holtby did 16 on the bench, and though TSN did not get a count on Pickard, he appeared to beat that.

3:11 - We have a new workout star, Zach Bogosian of the Peterborough Petes, who is ranked second in North America by the CSB. It's hard to say who was more impressive, Colin Wilson or Bogosian, but suffice to say both were outstanding.

Bogosian did 19 on the bench and 60 sit-ups, which was the most seen by TSN (though we did not see everyone).  Most impressive was his work on the bike. There are a series of trainers here and they constantly shout "encouragement" at the riders as they ramp up the VO2 Max test. Most players just put their heads down and pedal, but not Bogosian.  He was very vocal, giving it back to the trainers as though they didn't have enough resistance on the bike to hold him back. He dropped jaws all around the room with that performance. When Bogosian did his vertical jump, one scout shouted out an expletive in pure marvel. He really got up there.

Drew Doughty (3rd) had a decent workout, but it was perhaps unlucky to be in the same group as Bogosian as they fight to be the first defencemen taken on draft day. On the plus side, Doughty looked a lot leaner than his listed weight of 219 pounds, and it's doubtful he weighs that much now. Don Maloney was seen (he's everywhere) breaking off a conversation in order to watch Doughty on the bike.

Colby Robak (13th) had a good workout.  It was hard not to notice two big tattoos on his arms. It was hard to tell what the tattoos were, as TSN's intrepid reporter was being blinded at the time by Guy Lapointe's Stanley Cup ring. He is here working with the Minnesota Wild.

It's worth noting that injuries prevented two top prospects from working out today. Alex Pietrangelo (6th) and Kyle Beach (7th) both showed up to get measured and interviewed, but did not do any drills.

As a follow-up to Steven Stamkos' workout in the previous group, here are his numbers, according to TSN's on-the-spot recorder. He did 13 on the bench, 36 push-ups and 48 sit-ups.

2:05 - Steven Stamkos, the top North American prospect, impressed scouts with his effort today. As the top prospect, he had little to gain from today's testing, but he still gave it everything he had. In fact, he went so hard on the bike that he needed a bucket afterwards - just in case. He's not the first superstar prospect to need the combine bucket - Phil Kessel did it a few years ago, as have many others.

Stamkos was not expected to be great in the strength department, but he certainly held his own. In fact, after a solid workout on the bench he appeared to have one of the most impressive vertical jumps of the day despite not being one of the tallest players. One scout saw that explosive leg drive and shook his head, saying something about Stamkos being the "real deal."

Can your stock go up when you are already number one?

Coyotes GM Don Maloney was heard giving a radio interview, during which he discussed Phoenix prospect Blake Wheeler.  He was the fifth overall pick in the 2004 draft, and remains unsigned. The way Maloney was talking, it didn't sound like a deal would get done, either.  Stay tuned on that front.

Once he was finished with his commitments, workout star Colin Wilson came out to meet the media and talked about having room for improvement, specifically with his agility.  Room for improvement?!

12:29 - All eyes were on Nikita Filatov when Group 4 came out, as he is the top-rated European and could be a top three pick in the draft. Strength was not his strength, but he did well in general. 

There was one funny moment when Filatov was asked to do the balance drill, which involves standing for as long as possible on a board that sits on top of a ball. He wasn't sure what to do with the apparatus and, although he speaks good English, needed help from the translator. After several attempts at explaining what was required, Filatov just shrugged his shoulders, jumped up on the board and did fine.

There are literally dozens of people following Filatov. Just by coincidence, perhaps, there was one point during his testing when Filatov was almost eye-to-eye with Kings GM Dean Lombardi, who just happens to hold the second overall pick in the draft. It's not like Lombardi was paying more attention to Filatov than anyone else, but it was an interesting snapshot to see them facing each other in such close quarters.

The other big name in the group was Tyler Myers, ranked 4th in North America by the CSB, and he certainly is big! He looks more like a basketball player at 6-foot-7 and a lean 205 pounds, but if you project him putting on another 20 pounds of muscle - look out!

Mathieu Brodeur of Cape Breton also looked like he was here to try out for the Raptors. Brodeur and Myers almost hit the top of the vertical jumping apparatus.

11:40 - There is a bit of a pattern emerging at the combine as junior and college players routinely outperform Tier II junior players, as you might expect.  There was one exception early on, however, as Zac Dalpe from Penticton the BCHL (ranked 16th) did very well in the physical testing. He showed good lower body explosion.

In the third group, Joel Champagne of Chicoutimi (73rd) looked good physically. His body-type would project well at the pro level.

The big-name players in the group were Luke Schenn (5th) and Colten Teubert (18th). Teubert looked tall and lanky, while Schenn looked more solid and generally more impressive - with room to fill out some more.

Another interesting note is the fact that players are not just having their physical recovery tested today.  They are also going online to take a cognitive test before and after the physical testing so teams can get a gauge on which players are able to keep their wits about them in the midst of extreme physical exertion. The results are not released, in case you were wondering - at least not to TSN.

10:41 - We've got a new star at the combine - it's Colin Wilson of Boston University.  He was ranked 10th in North America by CSB, but that might be going up because NHL types certainly took notice of him today. To put it bluntly, he is ripped. Before he even did anything, Wilson looked NHL-ready with a big, strong body. Then he got on the bench and blew everyone else away. Unofficially, previously mentioned strongman John Carlson did 16 reps on the bench press.  Wilson did 21.

Most of the time, the GMs don't pay much attention to this stuff, they are mostly here for the interviews, but many were seen taking notice of Wilson's efforts.

Brandon Burlon (ranked 41st and going to the University of Michigan next year) also looked good on the bench and on the bike.

It's an interesting second group with the bruisers mixed in with some tall, skinny kids that still need to fill out - including Derek Grant (40th) and Jimmy Hayes (63rd).

Former Team USA teammates Wilson and Hayes took turns cheering each other on during testing, a rare dynamic in a normally tense and reserved atmosphere. That looked like a good example of leadership to some observers.

A list of NHL front office types seen in attendance: George McPhee (Washington), Dale Tallon (Chicago), Doug Wilson (San Jose), Jim Nill (Detroit), Dean Lombardi (Los Angeles), Don Maloney (Phoenix) and Scott Mellanby (Vancouver).

9:39 - The NHL annual meat market is already well underway with one group having completed the physical testing portion. The prospects are all wearing heart monitors so their heartbeats can be tracked during the workouts.

The most interesting test so far is the anaerobic test on the bike. Not only do they see how high a player's heart rate gets, they also see how quickly it recovers to a normal range. Aaron Ness, a Minnesota high schooler ranked number 27 in North America by NHL Central Scouting, had a really quick recovery. He is obviously in great shape.

Two players in the first testing group that seemed to have a harder time with recovery were Joe Colborne of Camrose in the AJHL (ranked 28th by CSB) and David Carle (60th), the younger brother of Sharks defenceman Matt Carle.

One player making an early impression in the second group was defenceman John Carlson (ranked 17th by CSB), another American high schooler. He's listed at 6-foot-2 and 212 pounds, but somehow looked a lot bigger than that. Carlson looks like a big, strong kid, and who knows how big he might get when he 'fills out'!