Top prospects prepare to get physical at the NHL Combine

By Ken McKenna
Malcolm Subban - Belleville Bulls

Photo: Belleville Bulls goaltender Malcolm Subban is one of the top 2012 prospects taking part at this week's NHL Scouting Combine (courtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

With less than a month remaining until the 2012 NHL Draft takes place, the 30 NHL clubs are getting a last opportunity to evaluate a number of the prospects available for the draft.  This evaluation comes in the form of the NHL Scouting Combine, which is taking place this week in the Toronto area.

104 players eligible for this draft are taking part in this event.  Three of those prospects – Nail Yakupov of the OHL's Sarnia Sting, Ryan Murray of the WHL's Everett Silvertips, and Malcolm Subban of the OHL's Belleville Bulls – met with the media on the eve of the two-day testing portion of the NHL Combine.

The early portion of the week consists of meetings between the prospects and the NHL teams in which the team representatives grill the prospects to gauge the player's mental makeup and readiness for the pro game.  The bigger names of the draft such as Yakupov, Murray, and Subban may meet with a larger number of teams than some of the lesser known prospects.

Murray, a defenseman who has already played against men in international play, admitted that the face-to-face sessions were difficult at first.

“Yeah, it gets a little stressful, definitely”, said Murray.  “Nervous for the first couple of ones, definitely a little bit nervous. But as the day went on, you get the same question, so you kind of get the chance to rehearse, and you find yourself saying the same stuff a lot.”

For his part, potential first overall pick Yakupov seemed to enjoy the give-and-take that is the heart of these meetings with the NHL clubs, meetings that other prospects might find repetitive and dull.

“A couple of times we're thinking that there, but hockey is the life”, said Yakupov.  “We've got to be fun and be nice with our guests and show how we play and how you are off the ice and on the ice. That's it.”

But now, with the meetings out of the way, the main event of the Combine takes place, that being the physical testing sessions being held on Friday and Saturday at the International Centre in Mississauga, Ontario.

While the majority of the tests are fairly routine, two of these tests – the Wingate Cycle Ergometer and the VO2 Max bike tests – have become the stuff of legend for the uninitiated.

Murray has heard the stories and hopes to come out unscathed.

I've heard some horror stories about it, yeah”, admitted Murray.  “But I'm going to go into it with an open mind, and hopefully I don't puke.”

Subban is also familiar with the dreaded bike tests, but thinks there is mostly hype surrounding these tests.

“Usually you hear it all the time, it's rigorous, it's a nightmare”, noted the Toronto native. “So I'd rather not try it than just try it once and see that it's not as bad. I feel like if I'm going into it now, I'll expect a lot worse than it actually is.  So I don't think it will be as hard as people say it is.”

The younger brother of Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban is also undaunted by the idea of performing these tests in front of a roomful of NHL GM's and scouts.

“No, I think it will motivate you”, stated Subban.  “If you were to do it alone by yourself, I don't think you go nearly as hard as you would with all the GMs and scouts in front of you.  So I think it would motivate all the guys to go the extra mile.”

Written by Ken McKenna