Top prospects put through paces at NHL Scouting Combine Staff

6/2/2012 9:25:48 AM

Feats of strength and endurance were front and centre on Friday as the top prospects for the NHL Draft were put through a series of gruelling fitness tests at the NHL Scouting Combine.

Many of the top draft-eligible players from North America and Europe were put through intense physical, medical and psychological testing in final preparation for the NHL Draft.

The fitness portion of the combine includes the notoriously tough bike tests - the Wingate Cycle Ergometer and the VO2 Max test.

The VO2 test measures a player's aerobic capacity, specifically the maximum capacity of an individual's body to transport and use oxygen during incremental exercise.

Top prospect Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting seemed unfazed by the physical toll of the bike testing.

"I think my favourite was the two bikes, it was easy for me," said Yakupov. "I was practicing before and for me it was easy."

Two of the most coveted defencemen in the draft, Mathew Dumba of the Red Deer Rebels and Griffin Reinhart of the Edmonton Oil Kings, found it tough but enjoyed the challenge.

"That's a killer, you come right off the Wingate and guys are throwing up in the back and your legs are just shot and you've got another one to go," said Dumba. "It's pretty hard to bear down and it really challenges you."

"I think the bike is the most tiring for sure. It's the longest 30 seconds I think I'll ever experience in my life," added Reinhart. "Then you have to go over and do the VO2 and the last three of four minutes of that it feels like you're doing the Wingate all over again."

Other tests the players took part in include the standing long jump, vertical jump, curl-ups, grip strength, bench press, push-ups, and push/pull strength. The prospects were also interviewed by NHL teams during the NHL Combine in an attempt to get a better read on their future.

Goaltender Malcolm Subban of the Belleville Bulls was asked if his approach to the combine is any different due to his position.

"I don't think it really changes anything," said Subban, whose brother P.K. plays for the Montreal Canadiens. "Regardless of your position, you're just trying to give it your all and be honest in the interviews. Hopefully you impress a few people and everything works out in the draft."

While 25 teams interviewed Ottawa 67's defenceman Cody Ceci, the highly-touted blue liner tried to get a read on what teams were thinking about him during the process.

"Talking to all the teams and trying to figure out what team has the most interest and where I'm going to go is all exciting stuff," said Ceci, who could be drafted in the first half of the first round.
One top prospect who did not participate in the physical testing was Mikhail Grigorenko, who has not yet been cleared for training after suffering a case of mononucleosis late in the season.

"I'm looking at the guys, so it's really hard to do it, but I'd like to do everything just to show people that I am not weak," said Grigorenko. "If teams want me to train with them, I will do it."

Make no mistake, every player wants to be drafted first overall, but Nail Yakupov is more focused on what happens after the NHL Draft, including doing everything he can to make the team.

"I want to be drafted by NHL and try to play hard and work with my team and try to win every game and then we'll see what happens. I want to make the NHL and then we'll see," said Yakupov. "It's the best league in the world. You have to work harder. I just want to work and do everything I can for the NHL because it's my dream."

Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips, who is a consensus Top 3 pick, admitted he would love to hear his name called first among the numerous top-rated defencemen.

"I think everyone wants to be the first one," said Murray. "I think everyone is competitve for that first pick and to be the first [defenceman] to go."

The competitive nature of Mathew Dumba came through when he was asked how he stacks up against the talent in this year's draft.

"I think when you compare all the skills and whatnot, the thing that separates me is my work ethic, my willingness to compete and win every battle," said Dumba, who has been tabbed to go in the Top 10. "I hate to lose and I bring that every day and I want to get better every day so I can get to that next level."

The Edmonton Oilers hold the first pick in the draft for the third consecutive year and have already scheduled a follow-up interview with Yakupov in Edmonton on Sunday.

Canadian teams actually have three of the top five picks, with the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs drafting No. 3 and No. 5 overall.

TSN will have live coverage of the NHL Draft from the CONSOL Energy Centre in Pittsburgh on Friday, June 22 at 7pm et/4pm pt.