Happy belated 4th of July and Canada Day to my fellow 4th liners! Sorry for the week off of content but I have an interesting one for you today.
The 2015 NHL Draft has come and gone. I’ll tell you; this off-season has not been disappointing as I feel it is one of the best in recent years. Shocking too, since it was regarded as a pretty weak free agency class. Regardless, one event that has passed with little notice was the NHL Combine. Every year the NHL invites the best prospects to one location where they get the chance to show off their fitness levels.
Maybe it is just me but I love to see athletes testing their limits. I understand the lack of fan awareness for the event however. It is not exactly the most exciting of athletic performances especially since most of these players are still basically kids. However this year was particularly better than most since they moved the events to an iceless hockey rink for a better audience experience, implemented new technology to broadcast and record results and included Jack Eichel’s ridiculous performance in basically every category.
My question to all of you is how would you fair on this day?
You start the day off with body composition testing. They essentially measure your height, weight, body fat and pretty much anything under the sun. Can you compare with Erik Johnson’s (2006 class) presumable 76 inch wing span? Or maybe you could impress scouts by beating out Nathan Mackinnon’s 9% body fat?
You will then proceed on to strength, power and endurance testing. The most well-known event is the VO2 max which gets an athlete onto a bike to measure his maximum VO2. In other words, how well does your body utilize its oxygen? On top of this they will measure your maximum output, how long can you keep your top speed for? Jack Eichel and Iakov Trenin dominated the competition this year by lasting for 12:15. 14 seconds longer than the next guy. This test is particularly valuable; Wayne Gretzky was known to have an incredible VO2 max.
Following up is the grip strength. The prospects hold onto a handgrip dynamometer and squeeze it with all their might. Agility tests are the next big indicator, a simple cone drill that forces you to side-shuttle in both directions. Eichel and Tyler Soy (undrafted prospect) were of the few who reached the top 10 in both right and left shuttling speeds. Personally, I am not the fastest or quickest even though I was able to increase my overall speeds in recent years so I am not sure if I would fare well in any of these categories.
Other tests include
Vertical Jump: Austin Wagner (LA Kings) reached 28.744 inches. This number is not the overall jump height, instead it is the height his hand touches a wall subtracted by the height of his hand in the air pre-jump
Bench press (80% of Body Weight): Jesse Gabrielle ( Boston Bruins) weights nearly 210lbs, I presume he had to work with about 165lbs. Something he lifted successfully for 20 reps. At 190lbs, I would have to lift 150lbs. I believe I could do this nearly a dozen times, and I am at least 5 years older than the kid. Jack Eichel continues to impress as he reached 16 reps at a similar weight as mine. I am now eager to try and beat this ☺
There are many more events than these, like the strict pull-up test. An event that has proved difficult for some athletes in completing even 1 rep. You can see all the tests and some results below.
For some it’s a way to boost them up the draft order, for others it’s a way to prove there are healthy have an injury.
For you, I want you to check out this Bleacher Report article on the top 10 in each event and see how you fare. Test yourself as best as you can this week and then after a month or two of training, test yourself again.
For all event details and descriptions see this Fitness Testing Summary: http://www.topendsports.com/sport/icehockey/nhl-draft.htm
The NHL would probably benefit from implementing an on-ice combine next year. Measure and record tests such as:
Skating ladder sprints
Skating agility tests
30-yard dash on ice
Shot power & accuracy
One would think that these are far better indicators of one’s ice hockey ability but I guess for now I will enjoy seeing what they have to offer for now. Like I said, take the time to pick 3-5 of these test and record them. Find a partner to do them too and you can push each other.
- Mark Lisica
Connor McDavid running some of the tests at the 2015 NHL Combine: