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Scouting combine could take on added importance

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With the top spot for the 2011 Entry Draft as wide-open as ever, it could make the NHL Scouting Combine that much more of an important event.

 

The 102 best draft-eligible players from North America and Europe will spend May 30 to June 4 in Toronto, going through a vigorous round of physical, medical and psychological tests that could determine where they are chosen.

 

Among the most sought-after players will be Red Deer Rebels center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson.

 

The 6-foot, 164-pound Nugent-Hopkins was No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American skaters. He led the Western Hockey League this season with 75 assists and was tied for third with 106 points. He then had 11 points in nine WHL playoff games.

 

"A couple of people high up in the Oilers' organization -- and I'm not naming names -- said Hopkins has the best vision on the ice since No. 99 (Wayne Gretzky)," , who mainly scouts WHL prospects, told NHL.com. "That's the highest compliment you can get, but also another thing is the way Ryan competes. He never takes a night off and he works as hard in his own end as he does in the offensive zone. It takes a special player with special skills to be able to do that."

 

Larsson (6-3, 200) has been Central Scouting's top-rated European skater all season. He had 9 points in 37 games with Skelleftea in the Swedish Elite League, his third season playing against men in the nation's top professional league. He also had 4 points in six games for Sweden at the 2011 World Junior Championship and played for his country at the 2010 WJC.

 

"Adam is one of the best skaters in this year's draft," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards said. "He has excellent speed and mobility. He also has patient puck-handling abilities and can surprise an opponent with a solid hit. His size and skating ability make him comparable with Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman."

 

The Scouting Combine features a three-pronged approach. Teams are allowed four days to interview as many prospects as they wish. Players are given medical examinations by independent doctors, and then go through a rigorous off-ice physical test.

 

There is no on-ice component to the Combine, and that's done for a reason.

 

EJ McGuire, the former director of Central Scouting who died last month, told NHL.com that for one, the top players already have been viewed multiple times by scouts either in person or on video.

 

Also, there's the fact that some players, including many in U.S. colleges and high schools, haven't been on the ice since February -- compared with players with Canadian Hockey League teams who could be coming off long playoff runs that could end weeks or days before the start of the Combine. The championship game for the Memorial Cup is scheduled for May 29 in Mississauga, Ont., the day before the Combine starts.

 

"Is it fair to the kid whose high school season ended in February to stand next to the kid who played in a championship game on Sunday?" McGuire told NHL.com last year. "It might be unfair to the Memorial Cup participant if the (high school) kid had just been doing the Combine tests, sprinting five times a week and not having to practice. That Memorial Cup guy, did he block a shot to win a championship and his ankle is sore?"

 

Instead, the players are put through their paces in a three-hour crucible which includes events as simple as the sit and reach, push-ups and sit-ups, right through a pair of high-tech stationary bike tests -- Wingate anaerobic measure and an aerobic-max VO2 test.

 

The top 76 North American skaters as rated by NHL Central Scouting will be taking those tests. Besides Nugent-Hopkins, those looking to make an impression on the scouts are Kitchener Rangers left wing Gabriel Landeskog and defenseman Ryan Murphy; defenseman Dougie Hamilton and center Ryan Strome of the Niagara IceDogs; Drummondville Voltigeurs center Sean Couturier; Portland Winterhawks left wing Sven Baertschi; and a group of players from the Saint John Sea Dogs that includes centers Jonathan Huberdeau and Zack Phillips, defenseman Nathan Beaulieu, and right wing Tomas Jurco.

 

A number of top European players scouts will be examining beside Larsson are Swedish center Mika Zibanejad, Finnish right wing Joel Armia, Swedish defenseman Jonas Brodin and right wing Dmitri Jaskin from the Czech Republic.

 

Among the goaltending prospects in attendance will be John Gibson of the U.S. National Team Developmental Program and Christopher Gibson of Chicoutimi Sagueneens, Central Scouting's top two-rated goaltenders.

 

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

Scouting Combine invite list

Name                Club            League    Ht.    Wt.

Forwards

Seth Ambroz            Omaha            USHL        6-2    211

Olivier Archambault        Val-D'Or        QMJHL    5-11    170

Joel Armia            Assat            Finland        6-3    191

Sven Baertschi            Portland        WHL        5-10    181

Tyler Biggs            USA U-18        USHL        6-2    210

Jeremy Boyce Rotevall        Timra            Sweden    6-0    169

Austen Brassard            Belleville        OHL        6-2    191

Daniel Catenacci        Sault Ste. Marie    OHL        5-10    183

Nick Cousins            Sault Ste. Marie    OHL        5-11    166

Sean Couturier            Drummondville        QMJHL    6-4    197

Joseph Cramarossa        Miss. St. Michael's    OHL        6-0    188

Phillip Danault            Victoriaville        QMJHL    6-0    170

Travis Ewanyk            Edmonton        WHL        6-1    178

Max Friberg            Skovde             Sweden-3    5-11    185

Markus Granlund            HIFK Jr.        Finland-Jr.    5-10    169

Rocco Grimaldi            USA U-18        USHL        5-6    163

Gregory Hoffman            Ambri            Swiss        6-0    170

Jonathan Huberdeau        Saint John        QMJHL    6-1    170

Phillipe Hudon            Choate-Rosmry Hgh.    Ct.        6-0    190

Colin Jacobs            Seattle            WHL        6-1    197

Dmitri Jaskin            Slavia            Czrep        6-1    196

Boone Jenner            Oshawa            OHL        6-1    204

Nicklas Jensen            Oshawa            OHL        6-2    187

Tomas Jurco            Saint John        QMJHL    6-2    187

Alexander Khokhlachev        Windsor            OHL        5-10    188

Nikita Kucherov            CSKA2            Russia-Jr.    5-10    163

Sean Kuraly            Indiana            USHL        6-2    192

Joseph Labate            Holy Angels High    Minnesota    6-4    180

Gabriel Landeskog        Kitchener        OHL        6-1    207

Zac Larraza            USA U-18        USHL        6-2    192

Maximilien Le Sieur        Shawinigan        QMJHL    6-2    203

Lucas Lessio            Oshawa            OHL        6-1    197

Luke Lockhart            Seattle            WHL        5-10    180

Adam Lowry            Swift Current        WHL        6-4    186

Mario Lucia            Wayzata High        Minnesota    6-2    183

Mark McNeill            Prince Albert        WHL        6-2    201

Jonathan Miller            USA U-18        USHL        6-1    198

Vladislav Namestnikov        London            OHL        6-0    166

Joachim Nermark            Linkoping Jr.        Swe-Jr.    6-1    187

Matthew Nieto            Boston University    H-East        5-11    175

Marcel Noebels            Seattle            WHL        6-3    195

Stefan Noesen            Plymouth        OHL        6-0    195

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins        Red Deer        WHL        6-1    164

Scott Oke            Saint John        QMJHL    6-3    185

Zack Phillips            Saint John        QMJHL    6-1    178

Shane Prince            Ottawa            OHL        5-10    174

Matt Puempel            Peterborough        OHL        6-0    196

Alan Quine            Peterborough        OHL        5-11    178

Rickard Rakell            Plymouth        OHL        6-0    191

Victor Rask            Leksand            Sweden-2    6-2    194

Ty Rattie            Portland        WHL        5-11    163

Tobias Rieder            Kitchener        OHL        5-11    173

Brett Ritchie            Sarnia            OHL        6-3    210

Alexander Ruutuu        Jokerit Jr.        Finland-Jr.    6-1    183

Brandon Saad            Saginaw            OHL        6-1    208

Miikka Salomaki            Karpat             Finland        5-11    198

Mark Scheifele            Barrie            OHL        6-2    182

Logan Shaw            Cape Breton        QMJHL    6-3    197

Nicholas Shore            U. of Denver        WCHA    6-0    195

Michael St. Croix        Edmonton        WHL        5-11    176

Ryan Strome            Niagara            OHL        6-0    175

Ryan Tesink            Saint John        QMJHL    5-11    157

Vincent Trocheck        Saginaw            OHL        5-10    184

Mika Zibanejad            Djurgarden        Sweden    6-2    191

Defensemen

Nathan Beaulieu            Saint John        QMJHL    6-2    174

Myles Bell            Regina            WHL        6-0    214

Rasmus Bengtsson        Rogle            Sweden-2    6-3    189

Jonas Brodin            Farjestad        Sweden    6-1    169

Adam Clendening            Boston University    H-East        5-11    190

Joel Edmundson            Moose Jaw        WHL        6-5    191

Dougie Hamilton            Niagara        OHL        6-4    187

Karl Johansson            Brynas Jr.        Swe-Jr.    5-9    167

Oscar Klefbom            Farjestad        Sweden    6-4    200

Patrick Koudys            Rensselaer        ECAC        6-2    190

Adam Larsson            Skelleftea        Sweden    6-3    200

Scott Mayfield            Youngstown        USHL        6-4    197

Joseph Morrow            Portland        WHL        6-0    197

Connor Murphy            USA U-18        USHL        6-3    185

Ryan Murphy            Kitchener        OHL        5-11    166

David Musil            Vancouver        WHL        6-3    198

Jamieson Oleksiak        Northeastern        H-East        6-7    244

Xavier Ouellet            Montreal        QMJHL    6-0    174

Stuart Percy            Miss. St. Michael's    OHL        6-1    186

Jonathan Racine            Shawinigan        QMJHL    6-1    182

Mike Reilly            Shat. St. Mary's High    Minnesota    5-11    163

Robbie Russo            USA U-18        USHL        6-0    189

Reece Scarlett            Swift Current        WHL        6-1    164

Duncan Siemens            Saskatoon        WHL        6-3    192

Ryan Sproul            Sault Ste. Marie    OHL        6-3    175

Colin Sullivan            Avon Old Farms High    Ct.        6-1    190

Andy Welinski            Green Bay        USHL        6-0    188

Tyler Wotherspoon        Portland        WHL        6-1    203

Zachary Yuen            Tri-City        WHL        6-0    205

Goaltenders

Jordan Binnington        Owen Sound        OHL        6-1    156

Laurent Brossoit        Edmonton        WHL        6-3    193

Christopher Gibson        Chicoutimi        QMJHL    6-1    193

John Gibson            USA U-18        USHL        6-3    205

Matt Mahalak            Plymouth        OHL        6-2    183

Matt McNeely            USA U-18        USHL        6-2    205

Stephen Michalek        Loomis-Chaffee High    Ct.        6-2    183

Michael Morrison        Kitchener        OHL        6-0    177

Samu Perhonen            Jyp Jr.            Finland-Jr.    6-4    172