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NHL.com's Scouting Combine blog

Sunday, 05.30.2010 / 3:25 PM / Predators Draft Central
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NHL.com\'s Scouting Combine blog
Adam Kimelman gives you the inside scoop from Toronto.
Final results
05.29.2010 / 4:06 p.m. ET

With the second day of fitness testing done, the 2010 NHL Scouting Combine has come to a close. But thanks to the good folks at York Fitness -- part of the Human Performance Lab at York University -- for tallying all the results on the two days of testing, and allowing me to post some of the top finishers in a few categories.

VO2 Max Test -- In all, six players lasted more than 14 minutes on the most grueling of the endurance tests, led by Slovakian U-20 team defenseman Martin Marcincin, who lasted 14:15. Halifax Mooseheads goaltender Mathieu Corbeil-Theriault went 14:03, and four players went exactly 14 minutes -- South Shore forward Charlie Coyle, AIK defenseman Patrik Nemeth, Moose Jaw Warriors defenseman Dylan McIlrath and Medicine Hat Tigers right wing Emerson Etem.

Wing span -- McIlrath measured 83 inches fingertip to fingertip to easily finish with the highest total. Corbeil-Theriault measured 79.5 inches, and Sioux City Musketeers defenseman Kevin Gravel was 79 inches.

Standing long jump -- One measure of leg strength was won by Sudbury Wolves center John McFarland, who went 116 inches. Harvard defenseman Danny Biega and Niagara Ice Dogs goalie Mark Visentin were next at 114.5 inches, followed by Saginaw Spirit center Ivan Telegin (114) and USNTDP defenseman Jarred Tinordi (113).

Curl-ups -- Saskatoon Blades left wing Curtis Hamilton did the most, with 48, followed by Brynas Jr. left wing Ludvig Rensfeldt, who did 40. Kitchener Rangers center Jeff Skinner (38), Etem (34) and Ottawa 67s center Ryan Martindale (33) round out the top five.

Push-ups -- Shawinigan Cataracts center Michal Bournival was the top finisher, with 40, followed by Belleville Bulls defenseman Stephen Silas and Portland Winterhawks left wing Bradley Ross, with 38 each. Seattle Thunderbirds goaltender Calvin Pickard had 36, and six players finished with 34 -- Biega, Erie Otters center Greg McKegg, Kamloops Blazers defenseman Austin Madaisky, Moose Jaw Warriors defenseman Kendall McFaull and USNTDP left wing Jason Zucker.

Grip strength -- Use caution shaking hands with Biega, who owns the strongest grip among the prospect. With his right hand, he measured 185 pounds, and 176 with his left. Everett Silvertips goalie Kent Simpson was second with each hand, measuring 174 with his right hand and 154 with his left. 

Bench press -- Chalk up another win for Biega, No. 46 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, who lifted the 150-pound weight 20 times. Chilliwack Bruins center Kevin Sundher was next with 19, followed by USNTDP defenseman Stephen Johns and Blaine (Minn.) High School center Nick Bjugstad with 18 reps. Notre Dame center Riley Sheahan lifted it 17 times.

Push/pull strength -- Biega had the greatest numbers in both categories, registering 329 pounds of push strength, and 328 pounds of pull strength. Novosibirsk right wing Vladimir Tarasenko finished second in pull strength at 308 pounds, followed by USNTDP center Bill Arnold (306), Windsor Spitfires left wing Taylor Hall (305.4) and Owen Sound Attack center Joey Hishon (305). Bjugstad was second to Biega in pull strength at 307 pounds, followed by Etem (305), Mississauga St. Michael's Majors Devante Smith-Pelley (302) and Ottawa 67s left wing Dalton Smith (299).

Upper body power -- It's getting repetitive now -- Biega tossed the four-kilogram medicine ball a leading 261 inches. Smith and Johns were next at 242, followed by Kingston Frontenacs defenseman Erik Gudbranson (240) and Sundher (238).

-- Adam Kimelman

Last but not least

05.29.2010 / 2:45 p.m. ET

Rimouski Oceanic forward Petr Straka was named the QMJHL's top rookie this season, but he was the last player to finish the fitness testing at the NHL Scouting Combine.

"I didn't know I was the last one," he told NHL.com. "I just prepared like if I were first."

Straka said all he saw of the Combine before walking into the room was part of an hour-long special on TSN last night.

"I did not exactly the same but something like that before," he said, "so I knew what to expect."

Straka said the VO2 Max test was the toughest for him.

"In the beginning it's difficult to breathe, but then that gets better but the legs get worse. It's tough. But everyone has to do it. I survived."

-- Adam Kimelman

So how scary was it?
05.29.2010 / 2:42 p.m. ET

The first player to finish the Combine testing Friday was Calgary Hitmen defenseman Matt MacKenzie. MacKenzie was asked where his next stop was after meeting with the media.

"I'm going to my hotel room and tell my roommate (Curtis Hamilton) the horror stories," MacKenzie said. "Get him scared for tomorrow."

Well, we caught up with Hamilton after he finished Saturday afternoon. So what did MacKenzie tell him?

"I got to sleep in yesterday, didn't have anything on the schedule," Hamilton told NHL.com. "I could hear him come crashing through the door and he fell down and started moaning, putting on quite the act. I don't think it was as bad as he made it seem."

So how hard was it?

"It was a tough test," he said. "The Wingate catches everyone off-guard. The VO2 is tough, too, but the Wingate throws you off quite a bit. (But) I survived."

-- Adam Kimelman

Combine little relief for Pulkkinen
05.29.2010 / 2:34 p.m. ET

Finnish prospect Teemu Pulkkinen's frustrating season continued here at the NHL Scouting Combine. The 5-foot-11, 183-pound left wing started the season playing for Jokerit's elite-league team, but when the team struggled, he was sent down to the junior team. Then he broke his wrist, had a pin inserted and missed 2 1/2 months. Then he hurt his shoulder.

He had just 1 goal and 3 points in 12 Finnish Elite League games, despite totaling 20 goals and 41 points in 17 games with the junior team, he was No. 17 on NHL Central Scouting's list of European skaters for the 2010 Entry Draft.

After the rankings were released, he turned in a tremendous performance in April at the World U-18 Championship in Belarus, scoring 10 goals in five games, winning a bronze medal and earning the tournament's most outstanding forward award. Then he had shoulder surgery four weeks ago.

Pulkkinen flew over from Finland for the Combine but wasn't allowed to do the physical testing because doctors were concerned he could injure himself so soon after surgery. Pulkkinen was asked to supply supplemental information about his surgeries, plus an earlier knee surgery, to Central Scouting that will be distributed to the teams.

Plenty of teams will be interested in getting those documents because Pulkkinen was interviewed by 21 teams -- actually, 21 NHL teams, plus one Finnish team. Pulkkinen met Saturday morning with Jokerit's new general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, who urged him to return to Jokerit. Pulkkinen was selected by the Kelowna Rockets last June in the Canadian Hockey League Import Draft.

-- John McGourty

Messier Q&A
05.29.2010 / 12:36 p.m. ET

Mark Messier, a special assistant to the president with the New York Rangers, had a prime spot on the viewing floor for the second day of testing at the NHL Draft Combine. He also took part in a few interviews with some of the top prospects, and shared some of thoughts with NHL.com.

Q: Any players in particular impress you?

Messier: I think you're impressed by everybody. The focus of the kids is amazing from 20 years ago or 30 years ago. Much more educated. The whole system has changed and come so far. So much more sophisticated. It's hard to be not impressed with all the kids and all the work they've put in to get to this point.

Q: Were you more impressed with them physically or by the interviews?

Messier: I think it's all good. It's all great information. The interviews are important to get to know them. The physical testing is important to see how far along they are in their development. It's all information you have to take into account, as well as how they play the game on the ice.

Q: What in particular do you get from the entire Combine experience?

Messier: I don't think there's any one thing. It's a series of things that are … it's all information. Every part of it is information. You try to put it all together to come up with some kind of picture that shows each and every individual. They all have individual strengths and weaknesses. If there was a secret to it, we'd all be better off. It's a great process. The NHL has come a long way in developing the young players to get them ready for the NHL.

Q: Could you have done something like the Combine fitness testing when you were 18?

Messier: We were one of the first teams (in Edmonton) to do it, the Wingate test and VO2 testing -- we were pioneers in this. We were doing this back in the early '80s, so I had a career full of it. I don't miss it.

-- Adam Kimelman

Boudreau at the Combine
05.29.2010 / 10:19 a.m. ET

It's unusual to see an NHL coach at the Scouting Combine. The event is a gathering of general managers, scouting directors and scouts, for the most part.

So it was a bit of a surprise Saturday morning to see Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau watching the physical testing, along with Capitals General Manager George McPhee. It was obvious Boudreau wasn't sightseeing.

"George invited me and I was in the area," Boudreau said. "It's always nice to be able to see the other side and what goes on. It's really interesting. Rather than not have any first-hand knowledge of it, you'd like to see it. I'm lucky to be able to come here."

Prior to joining the Capitals in November 2007, Boudreau spent 17 years coaching in the minor leagues. So he's seen a lot of aspiring hockey players jump from junior hockey or the college ranks to the professional level. He knows the process of developing a young, raw talent into an accomplished professional capable of playing in the NHL.

"I've been in all the minor leagues as a coach, dealing with the young players in the minors," Boudreau said. "You get to see their bodies form. There might be one guy you draft and you've never seen him. You draft him and you see him. Then, two years later, he's coming to camp and he's an NHL guy and you remember him because of something special he did at the Combine. It's a positive thing."

The Capitals are respected in the NHL for their ability to develop the players they draft.

"George is so good at that because he doesn't leave any stone unturned," Boudreau said.

The purpose of the Combine is to test the players physically and psychologically and to provide an opportunity for teams to interview them. The teams, through their own scouts and the NHL Central Scouting staff, already know the player's hockey skills and history, so this is a good place for the 18-year-olds to show their commitment to fitness, their dedication and character.

"For me, those are the three important things here," Boudreau said. "It's not how far you can jump or how good a shape you're in or any of those things. It's commitment and character. You see those things and keep them in mind when it's time to draft."

Boudreau said he'll be watching Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final Saturday, when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Philadelphia Flyers. Of course, he'd rather be standing behind one of the benches, but the Capitals, the best team in the NHL during the regular season, were upset in the first round of the playoffs by the Montreal Canadiens. Hot goalies like Jaroslav Halak have been stopping great teams since hockey began.

"It could be better for hockey if Washington was in it, but I we have two big U.S. markets in the Stanley Cup for the first time in a long time," Boudreau said. "I think the exposure should be really good. With exposure comes TV ratings and more people get to see our game. I just hope for a six- or seven-game series to make it really exciting.

-- John McGourty

Maloney Q&A
05.29.2010 / 9:33 a.m. ET

Phoenix Coyotes GM Don Maloney has been one of the more interested observers of the fitness testing. And with a pair of first-round picks (Nos. 13 and 25), he's got a trained eye on a number of possibilities.

As the second day of testing was starting, Maloney talked briefly about what he's seen this week from the prospects.

Q: Anyone really impress you?

Maloney: I think generally the players are in such great (physical) condition. From five years ago to now, its really rare … I think there might have been two players that you look at and say he might not be in the greatest shape. Everybody else is just lean and ripped and strong and testing hard. It's really impressive how mature physically some of these young kids are.

Q: How about through the interview process?

Maloney: I think a couple of the Russian players, quite frankly. (Alexander) Burmistrov, (Vladimir) Tarasenko, they were upbeat, very positive. You just don't know if you get the old dour personality, but those two in particular were very upbeat, excited about hockey and playing hockey. They maybe stand out a little bit more.

Q: After the first two picks, how big is the next group of players?

Maloney: Ours is maybe 10, and then there's another little separation. We're sitting at 13 and we really like 10 guys a lot and then there's another group of five or six that we like. For us now, we're sorting out who we like better than the next guy. In our situation, we have the two picks. We've been primarily focused on the pick at 13. Once we get that down pat, then we shift to 25 and say, who do we think and what do we have to do. We really like 10 players in this draft a little bit more than the next group. But who's to say? From 12 to 25, they're all good prospects.

Q: Have you thought about using your two picks to trade up?

Maloney: A little. But truthfully … it's a debate we're having right now. Those decisions happen draft day or the days leading up to the draft. Unless you can get up to 4 or 5, then I'm not sure how much … for the price to move up for us, generally it's an additional second round pick. For us to from 13 to 10, 13 to 9, that's really a debate we'll have more towards the draft. It could happen. I'm not sure. I'm really not sure. We have talked about it.

-- Adam Kimelman

Day 1 Results
05.28.2010 / 6:54 p.m. ET

The first day of testing has finished here at the NHL Scouting Combine. Here are the leaders in a few different categories:

VO2 Max test -- A pair of forwards -- Medicine Hat's Emerson Etem and South Shore's Charlie Coyle -- each went 14 minutes on this test, finishing well ahead of the third-place finisher, Thief River Falls (Minn.) High goalie Zane Gothberg, who lasted 13:03. USNTDP forward Bill Arnold, Penticton forward Beau Bennett, Blaine (Minn.) High center Nick Bjugstad and Novosibirsk (KHL) forward Vladimir Tarasenko all lasted 13 minutes.

Wing span -- The longest wing span belonged to USNTDP defenseman Derek Forbort, at 78.5 inches. Edmonton Oil Kings goalie was next at 78.25 inches.

Standing long jump -- Sudbury Wolves center John McFarland went the longest, 116 inches, just ahead of Niagara Ice Dogs goalie Mark Visentin and Harvard defenseman Danny Biega, who each jumped 114.5 inches, and Saginaw Spirit center Ivan Telegin, who went 114 inches.

Vertical jump -- The highest riser was Cretin-Derham High defenseman Mark Alt, at 31.8 inches. Avon Old Farms School defenseman Mike Pereria and Indiana Ice center Jacob Fallon were right behind him at 31.5 inches.

Sit-ups -- Kitchener Rangers forward Jeff Skinner did the most sit-ups, 38. Etem did 34, and Ottawa 67s center Ryan Martindale did 33.

Push-ups -- Portland Winterhawks forward Bradley Ross was the leader with 38, followed by Seattle Thunderbirds goalie Calvin Pickard (36). Erie center Greg McKegg, USNTDP forward Jason Zucker and Biega were next with 34.

Bench press -- Biega, the Harvard defenseman, put the 150-pound bar up 20 times, followed by Bjugstad and USNTDP defenseman Stephen Johns, who each did it 18 times. Notre Dame center Riley Sheahan was next with 17 reps.

We'll see tomorrow if today's leaders hold up.

-- Adam Kimelman

Hall opts out
05.28.2010 / 3:25 p.m. ET

Folks who wanted to see Taylor Hall go through the fitness testing gamut were disappointed Friday as a few injuries, plus a grueling season, left him a bit too sore to work out.

"I got pretty banged up in the Memorial Cup, I played almost 100 games this year, I had a couple injuries, just nagging, and I thought it would be a good idea not to work out," said Hall. "Just in my back and my knee. It's not lingering stuff, just kind of painful right now. Rest is the biggest thing. Once I get that I'll be fine."

He'll certainly have that chance, as he and his Windsor teammates will leave Monday for a Cancun getaway. But Hall did take some time to answer a few questions from the media throng:

Q: How has the week been for you?

Hall: It's been a pretty quick turnaround, it's only been five days since I played my last game. This whole experience has been pretty unique for me, just seeing the teams and seeing the GMs. Just getting a feel for what they see and a little critiquing here and there.

Q: Would you rather be working out with the rest of the guys?

Hall: I can't lie, I wouldn't want to be puking there. If I was healthy I'd be participating, giving it my all, but at the same time I'm just not healthy enough."

Q: Can you compare how your interviews with the Oilers and Bruins went?

Hall: I think they both went pretty well. They were a lot more serious than the other teams, more business-like. They asked me questions, wasn't anything I haven't heard before. People wanted to get to know me as a person and as a player. With the Edmonton one, I've been out to dinner with them a few times, it was the same conversations. With Boston I hadn't met with them at all, so that was a nice sit-down with Peter Chiarelli and all the scouts. They asked me what kind of hockey experiences I've been through and what it would mean to be a Bruin.

Q: Did you do enough to sell yourself to become the No. 1 pick?

Hall: I think there's only so much you can do in a 20-minute conversation. I think my play all year has dictated what they should do. If they feel I'm their guy, that's great.

Q: Did you meet with the Maple Leafs?

Hall: Yes, the Leafs were in. They kind of made a joke that they pick at 62 and they said I should quit hockey until they draft and they'd pick me up at 62. I told them I couldn't do it.

Q: Who's your Stanley Cup Final pick?

Hall: I think Chicago is going to win it, in six.

Q: Does going No. 1 really matter?

Hall: When you're a 40-year-old guy and you've played 20 years in the NHL, I really don't think if you go one or two really mattered. At the end of the day it's how many winning teams you've been on, how many Stanley Cups you've won. The draft is just the start. Hopefully after that I can make a successful career for myself.

Q: Who would you take with the No. 1 pick?

Hall: I'd take (Cam) Fowler. Playing with him and getting to know him as a person, he has a really competitive edge. He can step in next year and really make an impact. He's such a good puck-moving defenseman. From the start of the year, over the course of the year, he's really improved in all aspects of his game. He's become a more physical guy. Those steps he's taken have really made him a really good fit for the NHL next year.

--  Adam Kimelman

Windsor re-loading
05.28.2010 / 2:59 p.m. ET

After his team won a second-straight Memorial Cup, Windsor Spitfires coach Bob Boughner talked about the key players he likely was going to lose.

He didn't mention some of the players he's going to get, including a pair here at the Combine -- U.S. goaltending hero Jack Campbell and highly regarded German forward Tom Kuhnhackel.

Campbell was on the NCAA track, but his great season with the U.S. National Team Development Program -- gold medals at the World Junior Championship and World Under-18 Championship -- left him wanting to push his development even higher, so he chose the Spitfires.

"The national team development program really accelerated my development, putting my goals to where I could reach them quicker," said Campbell. "I'm a hockey guy. I do well in school, but hockey is my passion. Playing in Windsor will provide me with a ton of games next season, and an NHL-type playoff schedule. There's a great coaching staff with (GM Warren) Rychel and coach (Bob) Boughner. I feel that's the perfect opportunity for myself."

-- Adam Kimelman

Who needs tests the most?
05.28.2010 / 10:53 a.m. ET

Prince George Cougars right wing Brett Connolly is No. 3 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2010 Entry Draft, but much of that is based on potential and previous results. Persistent hip problems sabotaged his season, but he says he's fine now. The fitness testing at the Combine will show NHL scouts that he's right.

"Me being injured all year, they (the tests) are really important to showing those guys that I'm not injured any more and that it's behind me," Connolly said following his workout. "I think those tests were huge for me and huge to show them that I'm not injured any more."

-- Adam Kimelman

First player through
05.28.2010 / 10:14 a.m. ET

Matt MacKenzie holds the distinction of being the first player to finish the Combine testing this year.

"It was really tough, but once you get through the first bike and then the second one, it's smooth sailing," said MacKenzie. "Once I got through the fist one, the light was shining at the end of the tunnel."

The most unique part of the bike tests are the assistants from York University, who get within inches of the players as they pedal their way through, screaming their encouragement at a Spinal Tap-like volume.

"It was different, but it was good for motiviation," said MacKenzie.

-- Adam Kimelman

Jarmo's last Combine
05.28.2010 / 9:32 a.m. ET

Jarmo Kekalainen long has been regarded as one of the sharpest minds in the scouting world, but he's taking in his last Combine for some time this year. Starting in August, he's leaving his assistant GM post with the St. Louis Blues to take over as GM of Jokerit in the Finnish Elite League.

Kekalainen said he knows there's a lot of work to do, as the team has struggled for about the last eight years. But he said the facilities are the best in the league, and as tough as it is to leave St. Louis, he said this opportunity was just too good to pass on.

Kekalainen has overseen the Blues' drafts since 2002, and has helped the team find players like Erik Johnson, T.J. Oshie, David Perron, Alex Pietrangelo, Patrik Berglund and Lars Eller.

-- Adam Kimelman

The testing has started
05.28.2010 / 9:12 a.m. ET

The most public part of the 2010 NHL Scouting Combine is underway, as Calgary Hitmen defenseman Matt MacKenzie became the first player to start the Combine physical testing circuit. From push-ups, sit-ups, bench press and vertical leap to the grueling Wingate bike test and Vo2 Max bike test, MacKenzie -- like most of the other prospects -- will get put through the wringer.

Among the more interested observers is new Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman. This is Yzerman's first in-person viewing of the players in action.

Check back with NHL.com for updates on the testing throughout the day. Although one player we won't have much of an update on is Windsor Spitfires left wing Taylor Hall. A few hard hits he took at the Memorial Cup left him with a sore back, so he's skipping workouts.

He also has to pack for a team vacation to Cancun that starts Monday as a reward for winning the Memorial Cup.

Victory does have its priviliges.

-- Adam Kimelman

Grading the testing
05.27.2010 / 8:13 p.m. ET

The fitness testing is a big component of the NHL Scouting Combine. Even though there's no on-ice component, that part of the event still can tell scouts and GMs a lot about the prospects.

But is it the be-all, end-all? Not quite, and Penguins GM Ray Shero has the perfect illustration.

Back in 1993, he was working for the Ottawa Senators, who had the first pick in the draft. He hadn't been on the job long when he was sent York University to check out a young defenseman the team was considering taking.

"I had been on the job three weeks," Shero recalled for NHL.com, "and I remember seeing Chris Pronger and Chris Pronger, they had the bench press, he couldn't lift anything, he couldn't get it up once."

Shero said there was 135 pounds on the bar.

"These kids, keeping in mind they're going to grow into themselves from where they are now," said Shero. "I think you're just looking at where they are, if they have room to grow, work ethic. It's another way to see them in a competitive environment and see how they do."

How a prospect performs over the next two days here in Toronto will mean more to some teams than others, but no one's going to miss out on a Chris Pronger because they can't lift a few weights.

-- Adam Kimelman

What's Hall's favorite win?

05.26.2010 / 3:54 p.m. ET

In the last two years, Taylor Hall has won a World Under-18 Championship gold medal, a World Junior Championship silver medal, a pair of OHL titles, a pair of Memorial Cups, and an unprecedented two straight Memorial Cup MVP awards.

Not sure if his folks are putting an edition onto the house for all the awards, but that's quite a trophy case he's filling.

But does any one accomplishment stand out above the others?

"I've got to say the last Memorial Cup we won," Hall told NHL.com. "You look at the teams and it's so hard to repeat because of the long season and short turnaround in junior hockey. There's not a lot of time to win it and to win two consecutively, that's such a tremendous accomplishment. It's got to be the thing I'm most proud of."

Hall said it was harder to play as the defending champion this season, because he and his Spitfires teammates saw every team's best on a nightly basis.

"We knew coming in that we'd have that bull's-eye," he said. "At the start of the year we were pretty complacent, and we didn't expect that. But after a while we knew every team was going to bring their 'A' game and I think that's something that made us better along way and helped us out in the playoffs."

Considering they were able to rally from 3-0 down to the Kitchener Rangers in the league semifinals and then never lost another game the rest of the way -- sweeping the Barrie Colts for the league title, then running roughshod through the Memorial Cup -- it's obvious that early adversity helped a ton.

-- Adam Kimelman

Disappointment, the Memorial Cup and Kabanov

05.26.2010 / 3:27 p.m. ET

I caught up with Brandon Gormley, the highly talented Moncton Wildcats defenseman. Rated No. 6 by Central Scouting, Gormley is certain to hear his name called early at the 2010 Entry Draft.

Between interviews, he talked briefly about a few recent issues, including his team losing all three games at the Memorial Cup, and his brief tenure playing with Kirill Kabanov.

Q: Can you take anything positive from your Memorial Cup experience?

Gormley: It's tough to right now, to tell you the truth. It was very disappointing for our team. I think we had more to give. I thought we left something on the table and that's not what you want to do. We'll definitely have some regret this summer. But you have to move on, you can't dwell on it now. You never know, maybe someday I'll get to go back to it.

(NOTE: This video is Gormley's only goal of the tournament, a rocket from the point that put Moncton up 3-2 in the third period, and marked the second and last time Windsor trailed in the tournament.)

Q: What happened with Kabanov this season?

Gormley: It's a tough situation to talk about. He helped us when he was there. And then he got sent home to play on the Russia team. We felt as a team that it would be better for him to get that development and for him to play there.

Q: When he was in Moncton and healthy, what kind of a player was he?

Gormley: He's a good player. He's very shifty, got lots of skill, lots of talent. Definitely a hard player to play against. He's a big kid, he can really control that puck and make it talk. He's a lot of fun to play with. He's fun to watch. He's a pretty cool character.

In talking to Kabanov, he also had nothing but good things to say about Gormley:

"He's a really good guy. He's funny. I think he's the best defenseman in the QMJHL. He's clever, strong on the puck, he's pretty tough, he can play physical. He's a smart guy. And he's good to follow. He's really good person, too. I think he will make the NHL pretty soon. He's perfect hockey player. Kind of … for kids, a good idol."

-- Adam Kimelman

The Kabanov story

05.25.2010 / 1:23 p.m. ET

Of the 100 players invited the NHL Scouting Combine, maybe the most interesting player was Russian-born forward Kirill Kabanov.

Kabanov's struggles on and off the ice this season have been well-documented -- his court battle with the KHL, his wrist injury, leaving his team in Moncton three games into the playoffs, getting booted from Russia's World Under-18 team.

I wanted to hear Kabanov's story, and during the 10 minutes he and I talked, he was brutally honest about what happened and where he believes his future lies.

"I can you tell one thing -- I will stay in North America forever," he told NHL.com. "CHL, AHL, NHL -- I don't want to go back to Russia." He even went as far as saying that he's considering giving up his Russian citizenship.

With Russian-born players under a microscope for a number of reasons, his words in his Combine interviews are vital. Kabanov's talents are unmistakable, but his off-ice decisions are what teams have to take into consideration.

I'll have more on my full discussion with Kabanov on NHL.com on Friday, as well as what a few NHL decision makers think about him.

-- Adam Kimelman

The hardest-working man at the Combine

05.25.2010 / 1:20 p.m. ET

The NHL Scouting Combine features 100 of best prospect for the 2010 Entry Draft, as well as scouts and GMs from all 30 NHL teams. Everybody has to be fit into one hotel, every interview needs to be scheduled, every team has to have its needs satisfied, players have to be picked up at the airport, and then there are outside media requests to be dealt with, as well as signage issues, dealing with the hotel staff, making sure the Internet stays online, making sure rooms are prepared for medical and physical testing.

It's a lot of moving parts, but NHL Central Scouting Coordinator Nathan Ogilvie-Harris, along with assistant Luke McGoey, somehow manages to keep everything moving like clockwork. In the three years I've covered the Combine, I'm always impressed with just how organized Nathan is able to keep things. There's a lot that goes into planning and coordinating an event like this, and later in the week -- assuming Nathan can find the time -- I'll let him explain just how he does it.

-- Adam Kimelman

Tambellini talks
05.25.2010 / 1:02 p.m. ET

So who will the Oilers take with the first pick of the 2010 Entry Draft? The only person who knows for sure is Edmonton GM Steve Tambellini, and he isn't giving away any answers. He did, however, talk a little with NHL.com about having the first pick.

I told him Boston actually has the best spot in the draft -- the Oilers are the ones who actually have to make a decision between Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall, and the Bruins can happily take the other. Tambellini laughed, and said he wouldn't trade his spot.

Tambellini said when you combine Seguin or Hall with their haul at last year's draft, he's very happy. Edmonton took Swedish forward Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson with the 10th pick, and he just came off a World Championship that saw him score 5 goals and a team-leading 9 points in nine games playing against NHL-caliber talent. And second-round pick Anton Lander captained Sweden to a bronze medal at the World Junior Championship, and had 5 goals and 8 points in six games.

And then there's budding Canadian hero Jordan Eberle, who will be remembered for scoring some of the biggest goals in the World Junior history and had 4 points in four games at the World Championships.

"We're rebuilding," Tambellini said. "We're going to bring some new people in here."

You can read my full story with Tambellini, where I try to get a little more information out of him regarding the Seguin vs. Hall debate, in a little while at NHL.com.

-- Adam Kimelman

Getting settled in

05.24.2010 / 7:21 p.m. ET

The first day of the 2010 NHL Scouting Combine here in Toronto was a pretty slow one. The players are starting to make their way to the Bristol Westin Hotel near Pearson Airport, and so are scouts. Phoenix's Don Maloney, Edmonton's Steve Tambellini, Columbus' Scott Howson, Atlanta's Rick Dudley and Washington's George McPhee were among some of the GMs making their away around the hotel. Most of the players going through the first set of interviews are the Europeans. Mikael Granlund, Central Scoutng's top-rated European skater, was among those going from room to room.

Speaking of European players, there's an ongoing debate about where some of the elite Russian-born players will get picked at the draft. Will the stories of Alexander Radulov and Nikita Filatov be cautionary tales that dissuade teams from taking Russian skaters? Or will talent win out? NHL.com talked to a few scouts and GMs to get their opinion. You can check out the full story here.

NHL.com will be here all week, with stories and hopefully some video to check out. This event is a great appetizer for the draft, which is just over a month away.


-- Adam Kimelman

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