NHL Scouting Combine an imperfect measuring stick

The NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis has blossomed into a major event with all the major media outlets, teams’ executives, scouts and player agents in attendance. 
“It’s become bigger up in Canada with TSN and NHL Network here, and of course all the teams and their scouts and agents are here,” Coyotes assistant general manager Brad Treliving said. “But this is nowhere near as big in Canada as the NFL Combine is in the states.”
Nor is the weeklong combine, which runs through Sunday, as helpful a measuring stick as the NFL Combine. For one, all of the testing comes off the ice, leaving execs and scouts with the difficult task of gauging whether what they see will apply on the ice.
“I always say with the combine that you have to be a little careful,” said Treliving, who has been in Toronto since the event began and was joined by GM Don Maloney on Wednesday. “In the NFL, guys are drafted based off their 40 times and their performance at the combine because a lot of what they do is immediately transferable to the field. Here, it’s pieces of information. Really, you’re getting a sense of a guy’s personality and his frame, to see if there’s room to add size and strength.”
Some executives would like to see on-ice testing implemented, but there are issues unique to hockey that have kept the league from doing so. For one, many of the 17- and 18-year olds in attendance have just completed their seasons due to playoff runs, so they are banged up, while others have been off for two months. That makes for uneven testing.
Instead, the players go through an interviewing process similar to the NFL’s from Monday through Thursday (Treliving estimates that he interviews 25 players per day), and then the off-ice tests are held over the weekend. Those include strength tests, bike tests, body fat tests and getting accurate heights and weights.
When the combine concludes, the information gets added to each player’s profile, and some are scheduled for follow-up interviews. The Coyotes incorporate that information into their plans for the draft, which is on June 30 this year.
“Our scouts have met these players before, but for me, it’s often a chance to put a face to a name,” said Treliving, who expects to sit down with Maloney over the next couple of days to talk about a new contract since his expires in two months. “But a lot of times, you’ll get a guy who does everything well in the tests and then you get him on the ice and he can’t play, so you have to be very careful with the information you gather up here.”
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