The 2017 NHL Combine and the Canucks

Photo Credit: NHL

By Scott Rosenhek

Well, it’s that time of the year. The NHL Combine finished up yesterday, allowing this year’s group of draft eligible to make one final impression on the General Managers of the National Hockey League. Prospects have their height and weight recorded, participate in physical tests and are interviewed if teams schedule them.

Alright, let’s get the first bit of news out of the way. Casey Mittelstadt was unable to do a single pull-up, just like Sam Bennett in 2014. Mittelstadt was only able to bench 70-80% of his weight a single time. Now, I know what some of you may be thinking. Maybe you feel Mittelstadt is not in shape or committed enough to physical fitness at this level.

Sam Bennett is still an NHL player without being able to do a pull-up back then. As for the bench press, the NHL Combine is a little strange since reps are done in a rhythm (25 reps/min). Perhaps, Mittlestadt could lift the weight, but his reps may not have counted since they did not fall in that rhythm. Maybe all his strength is in his legs. Regardless, I think Cam Robinson from Dobber Hockey puts it best:

We also learned that Cale Makar is not as small as he was initially reported. Official measurements had him at 5 feet, 11.25 inches and 187 lbs, putting him closer to Timothy Liljegren at 5 feet, 11.75 inches and 190 lbs. At this point, strength of competition seems to be one of the few things to worry about when thinking about Cale Makar. He used the Combine to his advantage, getting the third fastest time in the shuttle run test (right side start; 8th fastest in left side start), 5th highest vertical jump, and 10th farthest standing long jump.

Elias Pettersson is not as skinny as I thought, measured at 6 feet, 1.75 inches and 165 lbs, while Cody Glass is the same height at 178 lbs. Pettersson did well in the Anaerobic bike tests, finishing 3rd in average power and 7th in peak power. Both have room to grow, but it is encouraging for Pettersson that he does not trail to far behind in terms of mass. Both players will need to get stronger as they develop.

This interesting bit of news for Canucks fans was brought up by Rick Dhaliwal:

Jim Benning may or may not be tipping his hand towards the players he likes, but it does seem the Canucks were captivated by the pair to warrant additional interviews. Cale Makar and Casey Mittelstadt are both committed to the NCAA, so the Canucks are unable to fly them out to Vancouver since it would violate their eligibility.

Josh Norris has made a very good impression, claiming the fastest times in the shuttle run (both right and left side starts). His anaerobic power was among the best, finishing first in peak power and second in average power output. Norris had the highest vertical jump and standing long jump. He tied for 4th in most reps in the bench press test with 15 (sorry Casey) and tied for 7th with the most consecutive pull ups with 11 (again, sorry Casey). Norris was one of my favourites at 33rd overall, but this performance could sway one of the GMs to select him in the first round.

Last, but certainly not least is the news regarding the Canucks not scheduling an interview with Timothy Liljegren.

There are a couple ways to interpret this news. The first is to assume that the Canucks have made their decision and will not be drafting Liljegren later this month. To be honest, Liljegren has been telegraphed to be the team’s favourite defender in the draft, so some may interpret this to meaning the Canucks won’t be drafting a defenseman. They did speak with Makar, so their opinions on defensemen may have changed.

The other way to look at is the possibility that the team has spoken with Liljegren outside the combine and felt the interview is not necessary because they were already impressed. There is a lot of arrogance associated with a move like that. I just can’t see a team drafting someone they did not bother to interview this close to the draft.

If I was Thomas Gradin (Canucks scout in Sweden), I would be pumping Elias Pettersson’s tires up until the draft. As an aside, I would prefer Cody Glass, but with the additional interviews, the Canucks seem to have their sights set on a center this year. In 2014, it was rumored that Gradin argued vehemently for William Nylander, but was overruled. Depending on how these meetings go, Gradin may get just what he wants in just a few weeks.

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